Characterization of the thermostable nature of the alpha and beta tubulin proteins in Cyanidium caldarium and Cyanidioschyzon merolae
Arnold, Matthew Scott
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Microtubules are critically important cytoskeletal elements. Together with microtubule associated proteins (MAPs), they form the latticework on which eukaryotic life exists. Simply put, microtubules are polymers of tubulin heterodimers, which are composed of the globular proteins alpha and beta tubulin. In vivo, these monomers associate with one another to form heterodimers, which then polymerize to form microtubules. In mammals, microtubule polymerization is a temperature-dependent process with an optimum of 37°C (Detrich et al., 2000). If temperatures exceed this optimal temperature by even a few degrees, the microtubule will begin to dissemble due to denaturation of the tubulin subunit and permanent loss of both shape and function will occur. This thermal barrier seems to be consistent in most eukaryotic organisms. Two exceptions are the thermophilic red algae, Cyanidium caldarium and Cyanidioschyzon merolae. These thermophilic acidophiles have been discovered in volcanic vents around the globe from Yellow Stone Park to Italy and grow at optimal temperatures of around 55°C. These organisms have been primarily studied in the context of evolutionary biology because of their primitive characteristics. Very little is known about the molecular biology of these organisms, and certainly nothing is known about how the biochemistry of these organisms brings about the ability to survive the harsh conditions of their environment. Currently, my hypothesis concerning the thermostable tubulin expressed within these organisms is that there may be key amino acid differences in the tubulin's primary structure that confer enhanced thermostability. I am testing this hypothesis by sequencing the alpha and beta tubulin genes of Cyanidium caldarium and Cyanidioschyzon merolae, generating homology models of the tubulin dimers, and comparing these models to a known mesophilic tubulin heterodimer structure in order to identify potential structural differences.
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