Writing and Reading the Tubulin Code [Cell Biology]

May 8th, 2015 by Yu, I., Garnham, C. P., Roll-Mecak, A.

Microtubules give rise to intracellular structures with diverse morphologies and dynamics that are crucial for cell division, motility and differentiation. They are decorated with abundant and chemically diverse posttranslational modifications that modulate their stability and interactions with cellular regulators. These modifications are important for the biogenesis and maintenance of complex microtubule arrays such as those found in spindles, cilia, neuronal processes and platelets. Here we discuss the nature and subcellular distribution of these posttranslational marks whose patterns have been proposed to constitute a tubulin code that is interpreted by cellular effectors. We review the enzymes responsible for writing the tubulin code, explore their functional consequences, and identify outstanding challenges in deciphering the tubulin code.