The thermal depolymerization procedure of Stephens (1970. J. Mol. Biol. 47:353) has been employed for solubilization of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus sperm tail outer doublet microtubules with the use of a buffer during solubilization which is of optimal pH and ionic strength for the preservation of colchicine binding activity of chick embryo brain tubulin. Colchicine binding values were corrected for first-order decay during heat solubilization at 50°C (t½ = 5.4 min) and incubation with colchicine at 37°C in the presence of vinblastine sulfate (t½ = 485 min). The colchicine binding properties of heat-solubilized outer doublet tubulin were qualitatively identical with those of other soluble forms of tubulin. The solubilized tubulin (mol wt, 115,000) bound 0.9 ± 0.2 mol of colchicine per mol of tubulin, with a binding constant of 6.3 x 105 liters/mol at 37°C. The colchicine binding reaction was both time and temperature dependent, and the binding of colchicine was prevented in a competitive manner by podophyllotoxin (Ki = 1.3 x 10-6 M). The first-order decay of colchicine binding activity was substantially decreased by the addition of the vinca alkaloids, vinblastine sulfate or vincristine sulfate, thus demonstrating the presence of a vinca alkaloid binding site(s) on the outer doublet tubulin. Tubulin contained within the assembled microtubules did not decay. Intact outer doublet microtubules bound less than 0.001 mol of colchicine per mol of tubulin contained in the microtubules, under conditions where soluble tubulin would have bound 1 mol of colchicine per mol of tubulin (saturating concentration of colchicine, no decay of colchicine binding activity). The presence of colchicine had no effect on the rate of solubilization of outer doublet microtubules during incubation at 37°C. Therefore, the colchicine binding site on tubulin is blocked (not available to bind colchicine) when the tubulin is in the assembled outer doublet microtubules.

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