Promotion of tubulin assembly by aluminum ion in vitro

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Science  10 Apr 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4798, pp. 183-186
DOI: 10.1126/science.3105058


It has been proposed that aluminum ion is a contributing factor in a variety of neurological diseases. In many of these diseases, aberrations in the cytoskeleton have been noted. The effects of aluminum ion on the in vitro assembly of tubulin into microtubules has been examined by determining the association constants for the metal ion-guanosine triphosphate-tubulin ternary complex required for polymerization. The association constant for aluminum ion was approximately 10(7) times that of magnesium ion, the physiological mediator of microtubule assembly. In addition, aluminum ion at 4.0 X 10(-10) mole per liter competed effectively with magnesium ion for support of tubulin polymerization when magnesium ion falls below 1.0 millimole per liter. The microtubules produced by aluminum ion were indistinguishable from those produced by magnesium ion when viewed by electron microscopy, and they showed identical critical tubulin concentrations for assembly and sensitivities to cold-induced depolymerization. However, the rate of guanosine triphosphate hydrolysis and the sensitivity to calcium ion-induced depolymerization, critical regulatory processes of microtubules in vivo, were markedly lower for aluminum ion microtubules than for magnesium ion microtubules.