Relationship between Moire patterns, tubulin shape, and microtubule polarity

Hernando Sosa, Denis Chrétien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The polarity of microtubules is reflected in cryo-electron microscope images and in three-dimensional reconstructions [Chretien et al., 1996: Structure 4:1031-1040; Sosa and Milligan, 1996: J. Mol. Biol. 260:743-755]. This paper shows how the directionality of the moire patterns and the shape of the tubulin subunits are related. Microtubules observed by cryo-electron microscopy show an arrowhead moire pattern that points toward the plus end of microtubules with a right-handed protofilament skew and toward the minus end of microtubules with a left-handed protofilament skew. On the other hand, three-dimensional reconstructions of microtubules observed from the plus end reveal a radial counterclockwise slew of the tubulin subunits. We show how these polar features are related and present unambiguous rules for determining the polarity on longitudinal and axial views of microtubules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-43
Number of pages6
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer modeling
  • Cryo-electron microscopy
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Three-dimensional reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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