MAP2 and tau are the two most prominent neuron-specific microtubule- associated proteins. They have been implicated in the stabilization of microtubules and consequently of neurite morphology. To investigate their influence on microtubule dynamics, we have tagged both proteins with green fluorescent protein and expressed them in non-neuronal cells. Time-lapse recordings of living cells showed that MAP2 and tau did not significantly affect the rates of microtubule growth and shrinkage. Longer recordings revealed the growth and disappearance of MAP-induced microtubule bundles coinciding with changes in cell shape. This supports the idea that microtubule dynamics are influenced by the cortical cytoskeleton. The dynamics-preserving stabilization of microtubules by MAP2 and tau thus provides a molecular basis for the morphological plasticity reported to exist in established neurites.
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