Directed cell migration is critical for embryogenesis and organ development, wound healing and the immune response. Microtubules are dynamic polymers that control directional migration through a number of coordinated processes: microtubules are the tracks for long-distance intracellular transport, crucial for delivery of new membrane components and signalling molecules to the leading edge of a migrating cell and the recycling of adhesion receptors. Microtubules act as force generators and compressive elements to support sustained cell protrusions. The assembly and disassembly of microtubules is coupled to Rho GTPase signalling, thereby controlling actin polymerisation, myosin-driven contractility and the turnover of cellular adhesions locally. Cross-talk of actin and microtubule dynamics is mediated through a number of common binding proteins and regulators. Furthermore, cortical microtubule capture sites are physically linked to focal adhesions, facilitating the delivery of secretory vesicles and efficient cross-talk. Here we summarise the diverse functions of microtubules during cell migration, aiming to show how they contribute to the spatially and temporally coordinated sequence of events that permit efficient, directional and persistent migration.
Microtubules are key players in cellular self-organization, acting as structural scaffolds, cellular highways, force generators and signalling platforms. Microtubules are polar filaments that undergo dynamic instability, i.e. transition between phases of growth and shrinkage. This allows microtubules to explore the inner space of the cell, generate pushing and pulling forces and remodel themselves into arrays with different geometry and function such as the mitotic spindle. To do this, eukaryotic cells employ an arsenal of regulatory proteins to control microtubule dynamics spatially and temporally. Plants and microorganisms have developed secondary metabolites that perturb microtubule dynamics, many of which are in active use as cancer chemotherapeutics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Here, we summarize the methods used to visualize microtubules and to measure the parameters of dynamic instability to study both microtubule regulatory proteins and the action of small molecules interfering with microtubule assembly and/or disassembly.