A microtubule crosslinking protocol for integrative structural modeling activities

Rafiei, A., et al. A microtubule crosslinking protocol for integrative structural modeling activities, 586, 113416

Microtubules (MTs) are key components in the cytoskeleton of the eukaryotic cell, and play roles in processes such as intracellular transport and cell division. An improved understanding MT regulation requires structural analysis of the extensive interactions between the MT lattice and its regulatory proteins, but MT interactions are challenging for even the most advanced structural methods to characterize. Integrative methods involving crosslinking mass spectrometry (XL-MS) can extend structural analysis to many interaction classes, but the representation of MTs in crosslinking data-sets has been surprisingly low. Here, we explore the basis for the underrepresentation of the MT lattice and present an enhanced method for mapping MT structural features using an optimized set of reagents, together with fluorescence detection to ensure MT structural integrity. Through the application of stringent identification criteria, 91 unique crosslinks were identified, 78 of which were uniquely matched to 7 distinct structural features of the MT lattice. Of note, 4 crosslinks were detected for the lattice-A protofilament organization. The lattice-A structure defines a “seam” or discontinuity in MTs and is an emerging site of interest for MT regulation. Our methodology should be broadly applicable to integrative structural studies involving any MT-protein interaction.