A new method for fibrous protein analysis illustrated by application to tubulin microtubule polymerisation and depolymerisation

Rachel Marrington, Mark Seymour, Alison Rodger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


A thermostatted micro volume Couette cell has been designed to enable linear dichroism (LD) data to be collected at a range of temperatures. The cell is a development of the traditional Couette flow LD cell and includes the recent development of micro-volume LD (20-40 μL) coupled with the addition of a heating element, temperature probe and controller. This new micro volume Couette LD cell opens the way not only to the LD analysis of systems where sample volume is critical, but also for the LD analysis of temperature sensitive samples. The polymerization of the microtubule protein tubulin has been followed in a range of different conditions using the thermostatted micro volume Couette LD cell. The focusing lenses on the cell, which are required for the microvolume cell, have the side benefit of significantly reducing the light-scattering artifacts caused by the large size of tubulin microtubules. It is now possible to monitor real-time polymerization and depolymerization kinetics, and any structural rearrangements of chromophores within the polymer. In the case of tubulin, the LD spectra revealed a greater change in the orientation of tryptophan residues at ∼290 nm during polymerization compared to other contributing chromophores-guanine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. The improvements in instrumental design have also allowed LD spectra of tubulin to be collected down to ∼230 nm (previous data have only been available from the near UV region), which means that some indication of protein backbone-orientation changes are now available. It was observed during this work that apparent LD intensity maxima are in fact artifacts when the high-tension voltage is high. The onset of such artifacts has been observed at much lower voltages with light-scattering fibrous proteins (including tubulin) than with nonscattering samples. Therefore, caution must be used when interpreting LD data collected with medium to high photomultiplier tube voltages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-690
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Couette
  • Depolymerization
  • Kinetics
  • Linear dichroism
  • Microvolume
  • Polymerization
  • Thermostatted
  • Tubulin


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