Electron micrographs of tips of growing and shrinking microtubules are analyzed and interpreted. The many shapes observed are all consistent with a simple mechanical model, a flexible tube with competing intrinsic curvatures. Observations are also consistent with growing and shrinking microtubules having the same intrinsic curvature for protofilaments, the one observed in oligomers peeling off shrinking microtubules. If this is so, the lateral bonds between protofilaments are responsible for the difference between shapes of tips on growing and shrinking microtubules.
- Competing curvatures
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