Structural insight into microtubule function

Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct. 2001;30:397-420. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.30.1.397.


Microtubules are polymers that are essential for, among other functions, cell transport and cell division in all eukaryotes. The regulation of the microtubule system includes transcription of different tubulin isotypes, folding of alpha/beta-tubulin heterodimers, post-translation modification of tubulin, and nucleotide-based microtubule dynamics, as well as interaction with numerous microtubule-associated proteins that are themselves regulated. The result is the precise temporal and spatial pattern of microtubules that is observed throughout the cell cycle. The recent high-resolution analysis of the structure of tubulin and the microtubule has brought new insight to the study of microtubule function and regulation, as well as the mode of action of antimitotic drugs that disrupt normal microtubule behavior. The combination of structural, genetic, biochemical, and biophysical data should soon give us a fuller understanding of the exquisite details in the regulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Microtubules / chemistry*
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Tubulin / chemistry


  • Ligands
  • Tubulin