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alpha-Tubulin can be posttranslationally modified in that its COOH-terminal amino acid residue, tyrosine, can be selectively removed and replaced again. This reaction cycle involves two enzymes, tubulin carboxypeptidase and tubulin tyrosine ligase. The functional significance of this unusual modification is unclear. The present study demonstrates that posttranslational tyrosinolation of alpha-tubulin does occur in the parasitic hemoflagellate Trypanosoma brucei brucei and that posttranslational tyrosinolation can be detected in both alpha-tubulin isoforms found in this organism. Trypanosomes contain a number of microtubular structures: the flagellar axoneme; the subpellicular layer of singlet microtubules which are closely associated with the cell membrane; the basal bodies; and a cytoplasmic pool of soluble tubulin. Tyrosinolated alpha-tubulin is present in all these populations. However, immunofluorescence studies demonstrate a distinct localization of tyrosinolated alpha-tubulin within individual microtubules and organelles. This localization is subject to a temporal modulation that correlates strongly with progress of a cell through the cell cycle. Our results indicate that the presence of tyrosinolated alpha-tubulin is a marker for newly formed microtubules.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Biol

Publication Date





439 - 446


Animals, Cell Cycle, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Microtubules, Protein Processing, Post-Translational, Trypanosoma brucei brucei, Tubulin, Tyrosine