▲ EXPERIMENTAL FIGURE 20-8 Cryoelectron microscopy allows observation of disassembled microtubules.

Microtubules undergoing assembly (a) or disassembly (b) can be quickly frozen in liquid ethane and examined in the frozen state in a cryoelectron microscope. In assembly conditions, microtubule ends are relatively smooth; occasionally a short protofilament is seen to extend from one end. In disassembly conditions, the protofilaments splay at the microtubule ends, giving the ends a frayed appearance. Splaying of protofilaments probably promotes the loss of tubulin subunits from their ends, leading to shrinkage of the microtubule. [Micrographs courtesy of E. Mandelkow and E. M. Mandelkow.]

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