Tubulin dimers assemble into dynamic microtubules, which are used by molecular motors as tracks for intracellular transport. Organization and dynamics of the microtubule network are commonly thought to be regulated at the polymer ends, where tubulin dimers can be added or removed. A joint NCCR publication between the Aumeier and Kruse labs reveals that motor usage imprints microtubule stability along the shaft.
The article is published in Developmental Cell. The authors show that molecular motors running on microtubules cause exchange of dimers along the shaft in vitro and in cells. These sites of dimer exchange act as rescue sites where depolymerizing microtubules stop shrinking and start re-growing. Consequently, the average length of microtubules increases depending on how frequently they are used as motor tracks. An increase of motor activity densifies the cellular microtubule network and enhances cell polarity. Running motors leave marks in the shaft, serving as traces of microtubule usage to organize the polarity landscape of the cell.
Link to access the article freely until January 27, 2022: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1eD105Sx5gmKCS