The microtubule cytoskeleton is assembled from the α- and β-tubulin subunits of the canonical tubulin heterodimer, which polymerizes into microtubules, and a small number of other family members, such as γ-tubulin, with specialized functions. Overall, microtubule function involves the collective action of multiple α- and β-tubulin isotypes. However, despite 40 years of awareness that most eukaryotes harbor multiple tubulin isotypes, their role in the microtubule cytoskeleton has remained relatively unclear. Various model organisms offer specific advantages for gaining insight into the role of tubulin isotypes. Whereas simple unicellular organisms such as yeast provide experimental tractability that can facilitate deeper access to mechanistic details, more complex organisms, such as the fruit fly, nematode and mouse, can be used to discern potential specialized functions of tissue- and structure-specific isotypes. Here, we review the role of α- and β-tubulin isotypes in microtubule function and in associated tubulinopathies with an emphasis on the advances gained using model organisms. Overall, we argue that studying tubulin isotypes in a range of organisms can reveal the fundamental mechanisms by which they mediate microtubule function. It will also provide valuable perspectives on how these mechanisms underlie the functional and biological diversity of the cytoskeleton.
Keywords: Isotype; Microtubule; Tubulin.
© 2022. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.