When pluteus embryos of Lytechinus pictus were treated with colcemid, the incorporation of [35S]methionine into tubulin declined by 5- to 15-fold within 4 h. This was mostly accounted for by a rapid decline in the concentration of alpha- and beta-tubulin mRNA in the cytoplasm. Treatment with other microtubule depolymerizing agents (colchicine, nocodazole, low concentrations of vinblastine) had similar effects. Treatment of embryos with the microtubule-stabilizing agent, taxol, or high concentrations of vinblastine resulted in increased synthesis of tubulin. The concentration of tubulin mRNA increases during development and becomes increasingly sensitive to colcemid and decreasingly sensitive to taxol. The transcriptional activity of tubulin genes, estimated by an RNA run-on assay in isolated nuclei, was not altered after colcemid treatment. On the other hand, the rate of decay of tubulin mRNA in prism embryos treated with actinomycin D was increased several fold by colcemid treatment, while taxol treatment led to an increased half-life of tubulin mRNA. These observations suggest that tubulin synthesis is autogenously regulated at the level of mRNA stability by the level of unpolymerized tubulin. The increasing polymerization of microtubules and declining level of unpolymerized tubulin during embryogenesis would result in a stabilization of tubulin mRNA accounting for the increasing concentration of tubulin mRNA and rate of tubulin synthesis, as well as the increasing sensitivity of tubulin synthesis to microtubule-depolymerizing agents. Evidence is also presented for a rapid influence of the level of unpolymerized tubulin on the efficiency of translation of tubulin mRNA.

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