Katanin-mediated microtubule severing can be regulated by multiple mechanisms

Karen Perry McNally, Dan Buster, Francis J. McNally

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Microtubules are essential for a wide range of cellular processes that vary between cell types. Katanin is a microtubule-severing protein that carries out an essential role in meiotic spindles in Caenorhabditis elegans and a non-essential role in mitotic spindles of vertebrates. In contrast to these M-phase associated roles, katanin is also essential for post-mitotic differentiation events in vertebrate neurons and in Arabidopsis. This diversity of function suggests that katanin's activity might be regulated by multiple mechanisms. Because katanin is active in M-phase Xenopus extracts but not in interphase extracts, we assayed for regulators of katanin's activity in these extracts. The microtubule-severing activity of purified katanin was inhibited by interphase Xenopus extracts. Fractionation revealed that this inhibition was due to at least 4 separable components, one of which contains the MAP4 homolog, XMAP230. Inhibition of katanin-mediated microtubule-disassembly activity by the XMAP230-containing fraction was reversible by cyclinB/cdk1, suggesting one possible mechanism for the increased severing activity observed in M-phase Xenopus extracts. In a previous study, spindle pole association by katanin was essential for its activity during mitosis suggesting that katanin's activity might also be regulated by co-localization with an activator. The polo-like kinase, Plx1, co-localized with katanin at spindle poles in vivo and purified Plx1 increased the microtubule-severing activity of katanin in vitro. These in vitro experiments illustrate the potential complexity of the regulation of katanin's activity in vivo and may explain how katanin can carry out widely different functions in different cell types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-349
Number of pages13
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Katanin
  • Microtubule severing
  • Mitotic spindle
  • Polo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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