One of the major functions of cytoplasmic microtubules is their involvement in maintenance of asymmetric cell shape. Microtubules were considered to perform this function working as rigid structural elements. At the same time, microtubules play a critical role in intracellular organelle transport, and this fact raises the possibility that the involvement of microtubules in maintenance of cell shape may be mediated by directed transport of certain cellular components to a limited area of the cell surface (e.g., to the leading edge) rather than by their functioning as a mechanical support. To test this hypothesis we microinjected cultured human fibroblasts with the antibody (called HD antibody) raised against kinesin motor domain highly conserved among the different members of kinesin superfamily. As was shown before, this antibody inhibits kinesin-dependent microtubule gliding in vitro and interferes with a number of microtubule- dependent transport processes in living cells. Preimmune IgG fraction was used for control experiments. Injections of fibroblasts with HD antibody but not with preimmune IgG significantly reduced their asymmetry, resulting in loss of long processes and elongated cell shape. In addition, antibody injection suppressed pseudopodial activity at the leading edge of fibroblasts moving into an experimentally made wound. Analysis of membrane organelle distribution showed that kinesin antibody induced clustering of mitochondria in perinuclear region and their withdrawal from peripheral parts of the cytoplasm. HD antibody does not affect either density or distribution of cytoplasmic microtubules. The results of our experiments show that many changes of phenotype induced in cells by microtubule-depolymerizing agents can be mimicked by the inhibition of motor proteins, and therefore microtubule functions in maintaining of the cell shape and polarity are mediated by motor proteins rather than by being provided by rigidity of tubulin polymer itself.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology