, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 133-153

Posttranslational tyrosination/detyrosination of tubulin

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Tubulin can be posttranslationally modified at the carboxyl terminus of the α-subunit by the addition or release of a tyrosine residue. These reactions involve two enzymes, tubulin: tyrosine ligase and tubulin carboxypeptidase. The tyrosine incorporation reaction has been described mainly in nervous tissue but it has also been found in a great variety of tissues and different species. Molecular aspects of the reactions catalyzed by these enzymes are at present well known, especially the reaction carried out by the ligase. Several lines of evidence indicate that assembled tubulin is the preferred substrate of the carboxypeptidase, whereas nonassembled tubulin is preferred by the ligase. Apparently this posttranslational modification does not affect the capacity of tubulin to form microtubules but it generates microtubules with different degrees of tyrosination. Variation in the content of the carboxyterminal tyrosine of α-tubulin as well as changes in the activity of the ligase and the carboxypeptidase are manifested during development. Changes in the cellular microtubular network modify the turnover of the carboxyterminal tyrosine of α-tubulin. Different subsets of microtubules with different degrees of tyrosination have been detected in interphase cells and during the mitotic cycle. Data from biochemical, immunological, and genetic studies have been compiled in this review; these are presented, with pertinent comments, with the hope of facilitating the comprehension of this particular aspect of the microtubule field.