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Summary

Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) have been hypothesized to regulate microtubule dynamics and/or functions. To test hypotheses concerning E-MAP-115 (ensconsin) function, we prepared stable cell lines expressing conjugates in which the full-length MAP (Ensc) or its microtubule-binding domain (EMTB) was conjugated to one or more green fluorescent protein (GFP) molecules. Because both distribution and microtubule-binding properties of GFP-Ensc, GFP-EMTB, and 2x, 3x, or 4xGFP-EMTB chimeras all appeared to be identical to those of endogenous E-MAP-115 (ensconsin), we used the 2xGFP-EMTB molecule as a reporter for the behavior and microtubule-binding function of endogenous MAP. Dual wavelength time-lapse fluorescence imaging of 2xGFP-EMTB in cells microinjected with labeled tubulin revealed that this GFP-MAP chimera associated with the lattice of all microtubules immediately upon polymerization and dissociated concomitant with depolymerization, suggesting that dynamics of MAP:microtubule interactions were at least as rapid as tubulin:microtubule dynamics in the polymerization reaction. Presence of both GFP-EMTB chimeras and endogenous E-MAP-115 (ensconsin) along apparently all cellular microtubules at all cell cycle stages suggested that the MAP might function in modulating stability or dynamics of microtubules, a capability shown previously in transiently transfected cells. Although cells with extremely high expression levels of GFP-EMTB chimera exhibited stabilized microtubules, cells expressing four to ten times the physiological level of endogenous MAP exhibited microtubule dynamics indistinguishable from those of untransfected cells. This result shows that E-MAP-115 (ensconsin) is unlikely to function as a microtubule stabilizer in vivo. Instead, this MAP most likely serves to modulate microtubule functions or interactions with other cytoskeletal elements.