Nogales, Eva, Medrano, Francisco J., Diakun, Greg P., Mant, Geoff R., Towns-Andrews, Elizabeth and Bordas, Joan (1995) The Effect of Temperature on the Structure of Vinblastine-induced Polymers of Purified Tubulin: Detection of a Reversible Conformational Change. Journal of Molecular Biology, 254 (3). pp. 416-430. ISSN 0022-2836

Addition of the antimitotic drug vinblastine to solutions of purified tubulin induces the formation of helical polymers whose structure and type of aggregation is determined by the concentration of magnesium. While paracrystalline arrangements of single coils are observed at low concentrations of the ion, for concentrations higher than 6 mM free double-coiled spirals are obtained, which are indistinguishable from those obtained in the presence of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). This result is consistent with a similar effect of magnesium and MAPs in neutralizing negative charges on the tubulin molecule and so allowing for lateral contacts between protofilaments. The effects that temperature has on the structure of both types of polymers, free spirals or paracrystals, have been monitored using time-resolved X-ray solution scattering. This study shows that a temperature increase: (1) affects the length and lateral aggregation of the spirals in the paracrystalline sample; (2) induces a reversible increase of the helical pitch in both types of polymers that closely follows the temperature change; (3) produces an irreversible aggregation of some of the protein in both types of polymers; and (4) can induce a reversible transformation from one type of structure to the other when the concentration of Mg2+is in the boundary between the two ranges.
We suggest that the changes in pitch are due to a temperature-induced conformational change of the tubulin molecule. This effect may be related to the structural modifications that result in the temperature-induced assembly of microtubulesin vitrounder normal conditions of assembly.