Microtubules are conveyer belts inside the cells. They move vesicles, granules, organelles
like mitochondria, and chromosomes via special attachment proteins. They also serve a
cytoskeletal role. Structurally, they are linear polymers of tubulin which is a globular
protein. These linear polymers are called protofilaments. The figure to the left shows a
three dimensional view of a microtubule. The tubulin molecules are
the bead like structures. They form heterodimers of alpha and beta
tubulin. A protofilament is a linear row of
Microtubules may work alone, or join with other proteins to form more complex structures called cilia, flagella or centrioles . In this unit we will cover all of these structures. Read the Chapter on Microtubules in Lodish.
Note: many of the photos are from the text, or from Histology texts by Bloom and Fawcett used by our students. They are for illustration at this site only and for individual student use.
For the lecture on microtubules, we will discuss the following paper: Bloom, GS and Goldstein, LSB 1998 Cruising along Microtubule Highways: How Membranes Move Through the Secretory Pathway. J Cell Biology 140: 1277-1280
Gwen V. Childs, Ph.D.
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© text copyright 1996 Gwen V. Childs, Ph.D.