Microtubule treadmills--possible molecular machinery

Nature. 1981 Oct 29;293(5835):705-11. doi: 10.1038/293705a0.


Microtubule polymerization in vitro is the summation of different reactions occurring at each end of the polymer. In steady-state conditions in vitro, net tubulin addition on the microtubule occurs at one end of the polymer, and net tubulin loss occurs at the opposite end. Thus, a unidirectional flux of tubulin from one end of the microtubule to the other, or "treadmilling', can occur. The opposite end assembly--disassembly behaviour of microtubules, if it occurs within cells, could be fundamentally linked to the functions of microtubules, as, for example, in the translocation of chromosomes during mitosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Mitosis
  • Protein Binding
  • Tubulin / physiology*


  • Actins
  • Tubulin