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Hoenger, Andreas; Doerhoefer, Monika; Woehlke, Guenther; Tittmann, Peter; Gross, Heinz; Song, Young Hwa; Mandelkow, Eckhard (2000): Surface topography of microtubule walls decorated with monomeric and dimeric kinesin constructs. In: Biological Chemistry, Vol. 381, Nr. 9-10: S. 1001-1011




The surface topography of opened-up microtubule walls (sheets) decorated with monomeric and dimeric kinesin motor domains was investigated by freeze-drying and unidirectional metal shadowing. Electron microscopy of surface-shadowed specimens produces images with a high signal/noise ratio, which enable a direct observation of surface features below 2 nm detail. Here we investigate the inner and outer surface of microtubules and tubulin sheets with and without decoration by kinesin motor domains. Tubulin sheets are flattened walls of microtubules, keeping lateral protofilament contacts intact. Surface shadowing reveals the following features: (i) when the microtubule outside is exposed the surface relief is dominated by the bound motor domains. Monomeric motor constructs generate a strong 8 nm periodicity, corresponding to the binding of one motor domain per beta -tubulin heterodimer. This surface periodicity largely disappears when dimeric kinesin motor domains are used for decoration, even though it is still visible in negatively stained or frozen hydrated specimens, This could be explained by disorder in the binding of the second (loosely tethered) kinesin head, and/or disorder in the coiled-coil tail. (ii) Both surfaces of undecorated sheets or microtubules, as well as the inner surface of decorated sheets, reveal a strong 4 nm repeat (due to the periodicity of tubulin monomers) and a weak 8 nm repeat (due to slight differences between alpha- and beta -tubulin). The differences between alpha- and beta -tubulin on the inner surface are stronger than expected from cryo-electron microscopy of unstained microtubules, indicating the existence of tubulin subdomain-specific surface properties that reflect the surface corrugation and hence metal deposition during evaporation. The 16 nm periodicity visible in some negatively stained specimens (caused by the pairing of cooperatively bound kinesin dimers) is not detected by surface shadowing.