Microtubule dynamics at low temperature: evidence that tubulin recycling limits assembly

Mol Biol Cell. 2020 May 15;31(11):1154-1166. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E19-11-0634. Epub 2020 Mar 26.


How temperature specifically affects microtubule dynamics and how these lead to changes in microtubule networks in cells have not been established. We investigated these questions in budding yeast, an organism found in diverse environments and therefore predicted to exhibit dynamic microtubules across a broad temperature range. We measured the dynamics of GFP-labeled microtubules in living cells and found that lowering temperature from 37°C to 10°C decreased the rates of both polymerization and depolymerization, decreased the amount of polymer assembled before catastrophes, and decreased the frequency of microtubule emergence from nucleation sites. Lowering to 4°C caused rapid loss of almost all microtubule polymer. We provide evidence that these effects on microtubule dynamics may be explained in part by changes in the cofactor-dependent conformational dynamics of tubulin proteins. Ablation of tubulin-binding cofactors (TBCs) further sensitizes cells and their microtubules to low temperatures, and we highlight a specific role for TBCB/Alf1 in microtubule maintenance at low temperatures. Finally, we show that inhibiting the maturation cycle of tubulin by using a point mutant in β-tubulin confers hyperstable microtubules at low temperatures and rescues the requirement for TBCB/Alf1 in maintaining microtubule polymer at low temperatures. Together, these results reveal an unappreciated step in the tubulin cycle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases / metabolism
  • Cold Temperature
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Polymerization
  • Protein Binding
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Tubulin / metabolism*
  • Tubulin / physiology


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Tubulin
  • AT2G20610 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Carbon-Sulfur Lyases