ABSTRACT: The regulation of microtubule dynamics is attributed to microtubule-associated proteins that bind to the microtubule outer surface, but little is known about cellular components that may associate with the internal side of microtubules. We used cryoelectron tomography to investigate in a quantitative manner the three dimensional structure of microtubules in intact mammalian cells. We show that the lumen of microtubules in this native state is filled with discrete, globular particles with a diameter of 7 nm and spacings between 8 and 20 nm in neuronal cells. Cross-sectional views of microtubules confirm the presence of luminal material in vitreous sections of brain tissue. Most of the luminal particles had connections to the microtubule wall, as revealed in tomograms. A higher accumulation of particles was seen near the retracting plus ends of microtubules. The luminal particles were abundant in neurons, but were also observed in other cells, such as astrocytes and stem cells.
Project description:Microtubules are dynamic cytoskeletal structures important for cell division, polarity, and motility and are therefore major targets for anticancer and antiparasite drugs. In the invasive forms of apicomplexan parasites, which are highly polarized and often motile cells, exceptionally stable subpellicular microtubules determine the shape of the parasite, and serve as tracks for vesicle transport. We used cryoelectron tomography to image cytoplasmic structures in three dimensions within intact, rapidly frozen Plasmodium sporozoites. This approach revealed microtubule walls that are extended at the luminal side by an additional 3 nm compared to microtubules of mammalian cells. Fourier analysis revealed an 8-nm longitudinal periodicity of the luminal constituent, suggesting the presence of a molecule interacting with tubulin dimers. In silico generation and analysis of microtubule models confirmed this unexpected topology. Microtubules from extracted sporozoites and Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites showed a similar density distribution, suggesting that the putative protein is conserved among Apicomplexa and serves to stabilize microtubules.
Project description:Dynein is a microtubule motor that powers motility of cilia and flagella. There is evidence that the relative sliding of the doublet microtubules is due to a conformational change in the motor domain that moves a microtubule bound to the end of an extension known as the stalk. A predominant model for the movement involves a rotation of the head domain, with its stalk, toward the microtubule plus end. However, stalks bound to microtubules have been difficult to observe. Here, we present the clearest views so far of stalks in action, by observing sea urchin, outer arm dynein molecules bound to microtubules, with a new method, "cryo-positive stain" electron microscopy. The dynein molecules in the complex were shown to be active in in vitro motility assays. Analysis of the electron micrographs shows that the stalk angles relative to microtubules do not change significantly between the ADP.vanadate and no-nucleotide states, but the heads, together with their stalks, shift with respect to their A-tubule attachments. Our results disagree with models in which the stalk acts as a lever arm to amplify structural changes. The observed movement of the head and stalk relative to the tail indicates a new plausible mechanism, in which dynein uses its stalk as a grappling hook, catching a tubulin subunit 8 nm ahead and pulling on it by retracting a part of the tail (linker).
Project description:Chromosomes must be accurately partitioned to daughter cells to prevent aneuploidy, a hallmark of many tumors and birth defects. Kinetochores are the macromolecular machines that segregate chromosomes by maintaining load-bearing attachments to the dynamic tips of microtubules. Here, we present the structure of isolated budding-yeast kinetochore particles, as visualized by EM and electron tomography of negatively stained preparations. The kinetochore appears as an ~126-nm particle containing a large central hub surrounded by multiple outer globular domains. In the presence of microtubules, some particles also have a ring that encircles the microtubule. Our data, showing that kinetochores bind to microtubules via multivalent attachments, lay the foundation to uncover the key mechanical and regulatory mechanisms by which kinetochores control chromosome segregation and cell division.
Project description:The microtubule cytoskeleton is involved in many vital cellular processes. Microtubules act as tracks for molecular motors, and their polymerization and depolymerization can be harnessed to generate force. The structures of microtubules provide key information about the mechanisms by which their cellular roles are accomplished and the physiological context in which these roles are performed. Cryo-electron microscopy allows the visualization of in vitro-polymerized microtubules and has provided important insights into their overall morphology and the influence of a range of factors on their structure and dynamics. Cryo-electron tomography can be used to determine the unique three-dimensional structure of individual microtubules and their ends. Here, a previous cryo-electron tomography study of in vitro-polymerized GMPCPP-stabilized microtubules is revisited, the findings are compared with new tomograms of dynamic in vitro and cellular microtubules, and the information that can be extracted from such data is highlighted. The analysis shows the surprising structural heterogeneity of in vitro-polymerized microtubules. Lattice defects can be observed both in vitro and in cells. The shared ultrastructural properties in these different populations emphasize the relevance of three-dimensional structures of in vitro microtubules for understanding microtubule cellular functions.
Project description:The nonprocessive kinesin-14 Ncd motor binds to microtubules and hydrolyzes ATP, undergoing a single displacement before releasing the microtubule. A lever-like rotation of the coiled-coil stalk is thought to drive Ncd displacements or steps along microtubules. Crystal structures and cryoelectron microscopy reconstructions imply that stalk rotation is correlated with ADP release and microtubule binding by the motor. Here we report FRET assays showing that the end of the stalk is more than ~9nm from the microtubule when wild-type Ncd binds microtubules without added nucleotide, but the stalk is within ~6nm of the microtubule surface when the microtubule-bound motor binds an ATP analogue, matching the rotated state observed in crystal structures. We propose that the stalk rotation is initiated when the motor binds to microtubules and releases ADP, and is completed when ATP binds.
Project description:The glycocalyx or endocapillary layer on the luminal surface of microvessels has a major role in the exclusion of macromolecules from the underlying endothelial cells. Current structural evidence in the capillaries of frog mesentery indicates a regularity in the structure of the glycocalyx, with a center-to-center fiber spacing of 20 nm and a fiber width of 12 nm, which might explain the observed macromolecular filtering properties. In this study, we used electron micrographs of tissues prepared using perfusion fixation and tannic acid treatment. The digitized images were analyzed using autocorrelation to find common spacings and to establish whether similar structures, hence mechanisms, are present in the microvessel glycocalyces of a variety of mammalian tissues. Continuous glycocalyx layers in mammalian microvessels of choroid, renal tubules, glomerulus, and psoas muscle all showed similar lateral spacings at ?19.5 nm (possibly in a quasitetragonal lattice) and longer spacings above 100 nm. Individual glycocalyx tufts above fenestrations in the first three of these tissues and also in stomach fundus and jejunum showed evidence for similar short-range structural regularity, but with more disorder. The fiber diameter was estimated as 18.8 (± 0.2) nm, but we believe this is an overestimate because of the staining method used. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Project description:Cytoplasmic dynein is a large, microtubule-dependent molecular motor (1.2 MDa). Although the structure of dynein by itself has been characterized, its conformation in complex with microtubules is still unknown. Here, we used cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to visualize the interaction between dynein and microtubules. Most dynein molecules in the nucleotide-free state are bound to the microtubule in a defined conformation and orientation. A 3D image reconstruction revealed that dynein's head domain, formed by a ring-like arrangement of AAA+ domains, is located approximately 280 A away from the center of the microtubule. The order of the AAA+ domains in the ring was determined by using recombinant markers. Furthermore, a 3D helical image reconstruction of microtubules with a dynein's microtubule binding domain [dynein stalk (DS)] revealed that the stalk extends perpendicular to the microtubule. By combining the 3D maps of the dynein-microtubule and DS-microtubule complexes, we present a model for how dynein in the nucleotide-free state binds to microtubules and discuss models for dynein's power stroke.
Project description:The four-subunit Ndc80 complex, comprised of Ndc80/Nuf2 and Spc24/Spc25 dimers, directly connects kinetochores to spindle microtubules. The complex is anchored to the kinetochore at the Spc24/25 end, and the Ndc80/Nuf2 dimer projects outward to bind to microtubules. Here, we use cryoelectron microscopy and helical image analysis to visualize the interaction of the Ndc80/Nuf2 dimer with microtubules. Our results, when combined with crystallography data, suggest that the globular domain of the Ndc80 subunit binds strongly at the interface between tubulin dimers and weakly at the adjacent intradimer interface along the protofilament axis. Such a binding mode, in which the Ndc80 complex interacts with sequential alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers, may be important for stabilizing kinetochore-bound microtubules. Additionally, we define the binding of the Ndc80 complex relative to microtubule polarity, which reveals that the microtubule interaction surface is at a considerable distance from the opposite kinetochore-anchored end; this binding geometry may facilitate polymerization and depolymerization at kinetochore-attached microtubule ends.
Project description:Microtubules are hollow biopolymers of 25-nm diameter and are key constituents of the cytoskeleton. In neurons, microtubules are organized differently between axons and dendrites, but their precise organization in different compartments is not completely understood. Super-resolution microscopy techniques can detect specific structures at an increased resolution, but the narrow spacing between neuronal microtubules poses challenges because most existing labelling strategies increase the effective microtubule diameter by 20-40?nm and will thereby blend neighbouring microtubules into one structure. Here we develop single-chain antibody fragments (nanobodies) against tubulin to achieve super-resolution imaging of microtubules with a decreased apparent diameter. To test the resolving power of these novel probes, we generate microtubule bundles with a known spacing of 50-70?nm and successfully resolve individual microtubules. Individual bundled microtubules can also be resolved in different mammalian cells, including hippocampal neurons, allowing novel insights into fundamental mechanisms of microtubule organization in cell- and neurobiology.
Project description:The plus-ends of microtubules target the cell cortex to modulate actin protrusion dynamics and polarity, but little is known of the molecular mechanism that couples the interaction. EB1 protein associates with the plus-ends of microtubules, placing EB1 in an ideal spatial position to mediate microtubule-actin cross talk. The objective of the current study was to further understand intracellular signaling involved in EB1-dependent cell polarity and motility. B16F10 mouse melanoma cells were depleted of EB1 protein using short hair-pin RNA interference. Correlative live cell-immunofluorescence microscopy was performed to determine localization of WAVE2 and IQGAP1 to protruding versus retracting edges. EB1 knock down caused poor subcellular separation of WAVE2 and IQGAP1, and overall decreased localization. Activation of PKC corrected defects in WAVE2 and IQGAP1 localization, cell spreading and cell shape to levels observed in control cells, but did not correct defects in cell migration. Consistent with these findings, decreased PKC phosphorylation was observed in EB1 knock down cells. These findings support a model where EB1 protein links microtubules to actin protrusion and cell polarity through signaling pathways involving PKC.