Polyglycylation domain of beta-tubulin maintains axonemal architecture and affects cytokinesis in Tetrahymena

Nat Cell Biol. 2002 Mar;4(3):256-9. doi: 10.1038/ncb764.


Polyglycylation occurs through the post-translational addition of a polyglycine peptide to the gamma-carboxyl group of glutamic acids near the C terminus of alpha- and beta-tubulin, and has been found only in cells with axonemes, from protists to humans. In Tetrahymena thermophila, multiple sites of polyglycylation on alpha-tubulin are dispensable. By contrast, mutating similar sites on beta-tubulin has site-specific effects, affecting cell motility and cytokinesis, or resulting in cell death. Here, we address the lethality of a polyglycylation deficiency in T. thermophila using heterokaryons. Cells with a lethal mutation in the polyglycylation domain of beta-tubulin assembled axonemes that lack the central pair, B-subfibres and the transitional zone of outer microtubules (MTs). Furthermore, an arrest in cytokinesis occurred, and was associated with incomplete severing of cortical MTs positioned near the cleavage furrow. Thus, tubulin polyglycylation is required for the maintenance of some stable microtubular organelles that are all known to be polyglycylated in vivo, but its effects on MTs appear to be organelle-specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Glycosylation
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / genetics
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / metabolism*
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / ultrastructure*
  • Tubulin / chemistry*
  • Tubulin / genetics
  • Tubulin / metabolism*


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Tubulin