Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 20530212
J. Cell Biol. 2010 Jun;189(6):945-54
Posttranslational glutamylation of tubulin is present on selected subsets of microtubules in cells. Although the modification is expected to contribute to the spatial and temporal organization of the cytoskeleton, hardly anything is known about its functional relevance. Here we demonstrate that glutamylation, and in particular the generation of long glutamate side chains, promotes the severing of microtubules. In human cells, the generation of long side chains induces spastin-dependent microtubule disassembly and, consistently, only microtubules modified by long glutamate side chains are efficiently severed by spastin in vitro. Our study reveals a novel control mechanism for microtubule mass and stability, which is of fundamental importance to cellular physiology and might have implications for diseases related to microtubule severing.