The microtubule cytoskeleton consists of a highly organized network of microtubule polymers bound to their accessory proteins: microtubule-associated proteins, molecular motors, and microtubule-organizing proteins. The microtubule subunits are heterodimers composed of one alpha-tubulin polypeptide and one beta-tubulin polypeptide that should undergo a complex folding processing before they achieve a quaternary structure that will allow their incorporation into the polymer. Due to the extremely high protein concentration that exists at the cell cytoplasm, there are alpha- and beta-tubulin interacting proteins that prevent the unwanted interaction of these polypeptides with the surrounding protein pool during folding, thus allowing microtubule dynamics. Several years ago, the development of a nondenaturing electrophoretic technique made it possible to identify different tubulin intermediate complexes during tubulin biogenesis in vitro. By these means, the cytosolic chaperonin containing TCP-1 (CCT or TriC) and prefoldin have been demonstrated to intervene through tubulin and actin folding. Various other cofactors also identified along the alpha- and beta-tubulin postchaperonin folding route are now known to have additional roles in tubulin biogenesis such as participating in the synthesis, transport, and storage of alpha- and beta-tubulin. The future characterization of the tubulin-binding sites to these proteins, and perhaps other still unknown proteins, will help in the development of chemicals that could interfere with tubulin folding and thus modulating microtubule dynamics. In this paper, current knowledge of the above postchaperonin folding cofactors, which are in fact chaperones involved in tubulin heterodimer quaternary structure achievement, will be reviewed.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.