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Keywords:

  • electron microscopy;
  • infrared spectroscopy;
  • KIF2C;
  • MCAK;
  • microtubules

Members of the kinesin-13 sub-family, including KIF2C, depolymerize microtubules. The positive charge-rich ‘neck’ region extending from the N-terminus of the catalytic head is considered to be important in the depolymerization activity. Chemically synthesized peptides, covering the basic region (A182–E200), induced a sigmoidal increase in the turbidity of a microtubule suspension. The increase was suppressed by salt addition or by reduction of basicity by amino acid substitutions. Electron microscopic observations revealed ring structures surrounding the microtubules at high peptide concentrations. Using the peptide A182–D218, we also detected free thin straight filaments, probably protofilaments disintegrated from microtubules. Therefore, the neck region, even without the catalytic head domain, may induce lateral disintegration of microtubules. With microtubules lacking anion-rich C-termini as a result of subtilisin treatment, addition of the peptide induced only a moderate increase in turbidity, and rings and protofilaments were rarely detected, while aggregations, also thought to be caused by lateral disintegration, were often observed in electron micrographs. Thus, the C-termini are not crucial for the action of the peptides in lateral disintegration but contribute to structural stabilization of the protofilaments. Previous structural studies indicated that the neck region of KIF2C is flexible, but our IR analysis suggests that the cation-rich region (K190–A204) forms β-structure in the presence of microtubules, which may be of significance with regard to the action of the neck region. Therefore, the neck region of KIF2C is sufficient to cause disintegration of microtubules into protofilaments, and this may contribute to the ability of KIF2C to cause depolymerization of microtubules.