Kinetochores distinguish GTP from GDP forms of the microtubule lattice

Nature. 1997 Aug 28;388(6645):888-91. doi: 10.1038/42270.


During prometaphase in mitotic cell division, chromosomes attach to the walls of microtubules and subsequently move to microtubule ends, where they stay throughout mitosis. This end-attachment seems to be essential for correct chromosome segregating. However, the mechanism by which kinetochores, the multiprotein complexes that link chromosomes to the microtubules of the mitotic spindle, recognize and stay attached to microtubule ends is not understood. One clue comes from the hydrolysis of GTP that occurs during microtubule polymerization. Although tubulin dimers must contain GTP to polymerize, this GTP is rapidly hydrolysed following the addition of dimers to a growing polymer. This creates a microtubule consisting largely of GDP-tubulin, with a small cap of GTP-tubulin at the end. It is possible that kinetochores distinguish the different structural states of a GTP- versus a GDP-microtubule lattice. We have examined this question in vitro using reconstituted kinetochores from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that kinetochores in vitro bind preferentially to GTP- rather than GDP-microtubules, and to the plus-end preferentially over the lattice. Our results could explain how kinetochores stay at microtubule ends and thus segregate chromosomes correctly during mitosis in vivo. This result demonstrates that proteins exist that can distinguish the GTP conformation of the microtubule lattice.

MeSH terms

  • Guanosine Diphosphate / metabolism*
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / analogs & derivatives
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetochores / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Mitosis
  • Polymers
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Polymers
  • Tubulin
  • Guanosine Diphosphate
  • Guanosine Triphosphate