The synchrotron x-ray solution scattering profiles of microtubules assembled from purified GDP- or GTP-tubulin with the antitumor drug docetaxel (Taxotere) are consistent with identical non-globular alpha and beta-tubulin monomers ordered within the known surface lattice of microtubules, with a center to center lateral spacing of 5.7 +/- 0.1 nm. The higher angle part of the scattering profile, and therefore the substructure of the microtubule wall is identical in Taxotere- and Taxol-induced microtubules, to the resolution of the measurements. However, Taxotere-induced microtubules have a mean diameter of 24.2 +/- 0.4 nm, which is 1.12 +/- 0.01 times larger than that of paclitaxel (Taxol) induced microtubules. The population of Taxotere microtubules has on average 13.4 protofilaments, which is similar to control microtubules assembled with glycerol but is in marked contrast with Taxol-induced microtubules, which have on average 12 protofilaments under identical solution conditions. Model populations of Taxotere and Taxol microtubules with the distributions of protofilament numbers determined by electron microscopy reproduce the positions and approximate intensities of the experimental x-ray scattering data. Comparison of the structures and activities of both taxoids strongly suggests that the change of the more frequent lateral bond angle between tubulin molecules from 152.3 degrees (13-protofilament microtubules) to 150 degrees (12-protofilament microtubules) is linked to the binding of the side chain of Taxol. Optimal microtubule formation is obtained with unitary Taxotere to tubulin heterodimer ratio; however, ligand molecules in excess over tubulin dimers cause a loss of cylindrical scattering features, consistent with microtubule opening. The results are compatible with the observed biochemical and thermodynamic properties of this ligand-induced microtubule assembly system and also with the simple working hypothesis that taxoids would bind between adjacent microtubule protofilaments.