Proteolysis of tubulin and microtubule-associated proteins 1 and 2 by calpain I and II. Difference in sensitivity of assembled and disassembled microtubules
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AbstractCalpain I and II (EC are Ca2+-activated neutral thiol-proteases. Isolated brain tubulin and microtubule-associated proteins were found to be good substrates for proteolytic degradation by brain calpain I and II. The assembly of microtubules was totally inhibited when the calpains were allowed to act on microtubule proteins initially, and a complete disassembly was found after addition of calpain I to assembled microtubules. The high-molecular weight microtubule-associated proteins were degraded within a few minules following incubation with calpain as shown by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and electron microscopy. When calpain was added to pre-formed microtubules, either in the presence or in the absence of microtubule-associated proteins, the proteolysis was significantly reduced. When tubulin was pre-assembled by taxol, the formation of proteolytic fragments was decreased indicating that assembly alters the availability of tubulin sites for proteolytic cleavage by calpain. Digested tubulin spontaneously formed aberrant polymers. No considerable change of apparent net charge was seen, thus indicating that calpain cleaves off fragments containing neutral amino acid residues and/or that the fragments of tubulin remain associated as an entity with the same charge as native tubulin. The results suggest that the calpains act as irreversible microtubule regulators.

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