Microtubule polymerases and depolymerases

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2007 Feb;19(1):31-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2006.12.009. Epub 2006 Dec 20.


The variety of shapes and sizes of the microtubule cytoskeleton is as great as the number of different cell types. This large variety is a consequence of the dynamic properties of microtubules, which allow them to adopt distributions of arbitrary size and form. How is the distribution of microtubule lengths controlled? Recent work suggests that the length distribution is controlled, at least in part, by the activity of microtubule polymerases and depolymerases, which accelerate microtubule growth and shrinkage. Specifically, biochemical and single-molecule studies have shown how MCAK (kinesin-13) and Kip3p (kinesin-8) accelerate depolymerization and how XMAP215 may accelerate growth. Studies on the yeast Dam1 complex have shown how proteins can couple a cellular structure, the kinetochore, to the ends of polymerizing and depolymerizing microtubules.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Kinesin / physiology*
  • Kinetochores / physiology
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / physiology
  • Xenopus Proteins / physiology


  • CKAP5 protein, Xenopus
  • KIP3 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • Kinesin