A study was undertaken to develop a means of quantitating the amount of tubulin present as a soluble pool and as intact microtubules in cultured Chinese hamster ovary cells. A procedure was developed in which these cells grown on monolayer culture in Petri dishes were placed in a "microtubule stabilizing medium" (MTM) consisting of 50% glycerol, 10% dimethylsulfoxide and sodium phosphate magnesium buffer, as described previously by Filner and Behnke. These cells then were homogenized and the homogenate was spun in the ultracentrifuge. Colchicine binding activity was then determined in the supernates and the pellets. The values, when compared with total colchicine binding activity present in replicate homogenates, were used to determine the percentage of tubulin present as intact microtubules. A statistical analysis of thin sections of cells treated with MTM revealed no statistically significant difference between MTM-treated cells and untreated controls. It was further discovered that the relative amount of colchicine binding activity recovered in the high speed pellet varied dramatically, depending upon the cell number of the culture being studied. Preconfluent cultures showed very low colchicine binding activity averaging less than 5%, while confluent and postconfluent cultures often possessed as high as 25% of their total colchicine binding activity in pelletable material. Although cold and D2O treatment had little or no effect on these values, N6,O2'-dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate increased them. It is hoped that this study will serve as the basis for a reliable quantitative procedure for measuring microtubule polymerization and depolymerization in vivo.

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