Colchicine-binding activity of mouse liver high-speed supernate has been investigated. It has been found to be time and temperature dependent. Two binding activities with different affinities for colchicine seem to be present in this high-speed supernate, of which only the high-affinity binding site (half maximal binding at 5 x 10(-6) M colchicine) can be attributed to microtubular protein by comparison with purified tubulin. Vinblastine interacted with this binding activity by precipitating it when used at high concentrations (2 x 10(-3) M), and by stabilizing it at low concentrations (10(-5) M). Lumicolchicine was found not to compete with colchicine. The colchicine-binding activity was purified from liver and compared with that of microtubular protein from brain. The specific binding activity of the resulting preparation, its electrophoretic behavior, and the electron microscope appearance of the paracrystals obtained upon its precipitation with vinblastine permitted its identification as microtubular protein (tubulin). Electrophoretic analysis of the proteins from liver supernate that were precipitated by vinblastine indicated that this drug was not specific for liver tubulin. Preincubation of liver supernate with 5 mM EGTA resulted in a time-dependent decrease of colchicine-binding activity, which was partly reversed by the addition of Ca++. However, an in vitro formation of microtubules upon lowering the Ca++ concentration could not be detected. Finally, a method was developed enabling that portion of microtubular protein which was present as free tubulin to be measured and to be compared with the total amount of this protein in the tissue. This procedure permitted demonstration of the fact that, under normal conditions, only about 40% of the tubulin of the liver was assemled as microtubules. It is suggested that, in the liver, rapid polymerization and depolymerization of microtubules occur and may be an important facet of the functional role of the microtubular system.

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