Tubulin rings: curved filaments with limited flexibility and two modes of association.
Tubulin rings have been previously identified as composed of linear polymers of tubulin subunits, equivalent to a protofilament in the microtubule wall but in a curved rather than a straight conformation. We have examined and measured a number of different ring structures obtained under different conditions. The preferred curvature is indicated by a single ring of 380 A outside diameter. Radially double rings consist of two coplanar rings of 460 A and 350 A outside diameter, held together by a pattern of eight identical contacts between the 40 A subunits in the inner and outer rings. In some circumstances a larger ring, 570 A diameter, can be added to the outside, or a smaller ring, 240 A diameter, may be added to the inside of the radially double ring, in both cases repeating the pattern of eight radial contacts. The distortion of the filament from its relaxed 380 A diameter curvature apparently can be made without disrupting the longitudinal bond between subunits in the filament, but must be stabilized by the energy of the radial contact. All of these rings (single and radially double and triple) are observed to associate axially to form pairs or in some cases larger stacks. The radially double rings or an axially associated pair of these (quadruple ring) may also associate to form crystals. These are thin plates, up to 100 micrometers in extent and several micrometers thick which have been of limited use so far in diffraction studies because of irregularities in the packing of adjacent rings.
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