Uncovering mechanisms that control the dynamics of microtubules is fundamental for our understanding of multiple cellular processes such as chromosome separation and cell motility. Building on previous theoretical work on the dynamic instability of microtubules, we propose here a stochastic model that includes all relevant biochemical processes that affect the dynamics of microtubule plus-end, namely, the binding of GTP-bound monomers, unbinding of GTP- and GDP-bound monomers, and hydrolysis of GTP monomers. The inclusion of dissociation processes, present in our approach but absent from many previous studies, is essential to guarantee the thermodynamic consistency of the model. Our theoretical method allows us to compute all dynamic properties of microtubules explicitly. Using experimentally determined rates, it is found that the cap size is ∼3.6 layers, an estimate that is compatible with several experimental observations. In the end, our model provides a comprehensive description of the dynamic instability of microtubules that includes not only the statistics of catastrophes but also the statistics of rescues. © 2012 Biophysical Society.
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