The kinesin-13 family member mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK) is a potent microtubule depolymerase. Paradoxically, in cells it accumulates at the growing, rather than the shortening, microtubule plus ends. This plus-end tracking behavior requires the interaction between MCAK and members of the end-binding protein (EB) family, but the effect of EBs on the microtubule-destabilizing activity of MCAK and the functional significance of MCAK accumulation at the growing microtubule tips have so far remained elusive. Here, we dissect the functional interplay between MCAK and EB3 by reconstituting EB3-dependent MCAK activity on dynamic microtubules in vitro. Whereas MCAK alone efficiently blocks microtubule assembly, the addition of EB3 restores robust microtubule growth, an effect that is not dependent on the binding of MCAK to EB3. At the same time, EB3 targets MCAK to growing microtubule ends by increasing its association rate with microtubule tips, a process that requires direct interaction between the two proteins. This EB3-dependent microtubule plus-end accumulation does not affect the velocity of microtubule growth or shortening but enhances the capacity of MCAK to induce catastrophes. The combination of MCAK and EB3 thus promotes rapid switching between microtubule growth and shortening, which can be important for remodeling of the microtubule cytoskeleton.
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