The Role of Microtubules in Secretion

  • Alan R. Prescott

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Microtubules have been implicated in the movement of secretory granules
to the cell membrane in a variety of both exocrine and endocrine cells. A
range of roles, from provision of the motive force to preventing presecretory
movement, have been attributed to these organelles.

An in vitro model system to investigate the interaction between
isolated exocrine pancreatic zymogen granules and brain microtubules has
been devised. This system has been studied by electron microscopy, colchicine
binding assay for the microtubule protein tubulin and radioimmunoassay.

These assays for microtubule proteins have been performed on mouse
pancreas homogenates to test whether a correlation exists between the
assembly of microtubules in vivo and secretion in response to a known
secretagogue, Pilocarpine.

The in vitro model .demonstrated an interaction between microtubules
and the membrane of zymogen granules. Attachment was produced by the micro-tubule side arms and possibly a membrane component. This morphological observation was confirmed by the colchicine binding assay which showed that zymogen granules removed tubulin as assembled microtubules from solution upon sedimentation.

The investigation of the pancreas microtubule—free tubulin equilibrium
during Pilocarpine-induced secretion showed that secretion was accompanied
by a reduction in the assembled microtubules. A concomitant increase in
the measurable free tubulin was initially produced followed by a rapid

These findings provide evidence for an important role for microtubules
in exocrine pancreas secretion. Secretory zymogen granules appear to bind
specifically to microtubules and Pilocarpine-induced secretion seems to
induce microtubule disassembly allowing granules to migrate to the site
of release under the influence of an unknown mechanism.
Date of Award1981
Original languageEnglish


  • Exocrine pancreas
  • microtubules
  • secretion
  • tubulin

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