Microtubules (MTs) are key components of the cytoskeleton and play a central role in cell division and development. MT assembly is known to be associated with a structural change in αβ-tubulin dimers from kinked to straight conformations. How GTP binding renders individual dimers polymerization-competent, however, is still unclear. Here, we have characterized the conformational dynamics and energetics of unassembled tubulin using atomistic molecular dynamics and free energy calculations. Contradictory to existing allosteric and lattice models, we find that GTP-tubulin favors a broad range of almost isoenergetic curvatures, whereas GDP-tubulin has a much lower bending flexibility. Moreover, irrespective of the bound nucleotide and curvature, two conformational states exist differing in location of the anchor point connecting the monomers that affects tubulin bending, with one state being strongly favored in solution. Our findings suggest a new combined model in which MTs incorporate and stabilize flexible GTP-dimers with a specific anchor point state.
- Maxim Igaev
- Helmut Grubmüller
- Maxim Igaev
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Luke M Rice, Reviewing Editor, UT Southwestern Medical Cetner, United States
- Received: December 14, 2017
- Accepted: April 12, 2018
- Accepted Manuscript published: April 13, 2018 (version 1)
© 2018, Igaev & Grubmüller
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