Microtubule-dependent organization of membranous organelles occurs through motor-based pulling and by coupling microtubule dynamics to membrane remodeling. For example, tubules of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) can be extended by kinesin- and dynein-mediated transport and through the association with the tips of dynamic microtubules. The binding between ER and growing microtubule plus ends requires End Binding (EB) proteins and the transmembrane protein STIM1, which form a tip-attachment complex (TAC), but it is unknown whether these proteins are sufficient for membrane remodeling. Furthermore, EBs and their partners undergo rapid turnover at microtubule ends, and it is unclear how highly transient protein-protein interactions can induce load-bearing processive motion. Here, we reconstituted membrane tubulation in a minimal system with giant unilamellar vesicles, dynamic microtubules, an EB protein, and a membrane-bound protein that can interact with EBs and microtubules. We showed that these components are sufficient to drive membrane remodeling by three mechanisms: membrane tubulation induced by growing microtubule ends, motor-independent membrane sliding along microtubule shafts, and membrane pulling by shrinking microtubules. Experiments and modeling demonstrated that the first two mechanisms can be explained by adhesion-driven biased membrane spreading on microtubules. Optical trapping revealed that growing and shrinking microtubule ends can exert forces of ∼0.5 and ∼5 pN, respectively, through attached proteins. Rapidly exchanging molecules that connect membranes to dynamic microtubules can thus bear a sufficient load to induce membrane deformation and motility. Furthermore, combining TAC components and a membrane-attached kinesin in the same in vitro assays demonstrated that they can cooperate in promoting membrane tubule extension.

European Research Council (ERC)
Elsevier/ Cell Press
Current Biol.
Biological Soft Matter-Former Group

Rodríguez-Garcia, R., Volkov, V., Chen, C.-Y., Katrukha, E., Olieric, N., Aher, A., … Akhmanova, A. (2020). Mechanisms of motor-independent membrane remodeling driven by
dynamic microtubules. Current Biol., 30(6), 972–987. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.036