Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Dynamic instability of microtubule growth


We report here that microtubules in vitro coexist in growing and shrinking populations which interconvert rather infrequently. This dynamic instability is a general property of microtubules and may be fundamental in explaining cellular microtubule organization.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Roberts, K. & Hyams, J. Microtubules (Academic, London, 1977).

  2. McIntosh, J. R. Mod. Cell Biol. 2, 115–142 (1983).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Mitchison, T. J. & Kirschner, M. Nature 312, 232–237 (1984).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Bergen, L. G. & Borisy, G. G. J. Cell Biol. 84, 141–150 (1980).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Allen, C. & Borisy, G. G. J. molec. Biol. 90, 381–402 (1974).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Summers, K. & Kirschner, M. W. J. Cell Biol. 83, 205–217 (1979).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Hill, T. L. & Kirschner, M. W. Int. Rev. Cytol. 84, 185–234.

  8. Carlier, M.-F., Hill, T. L. & Chen, Y.-D. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 81, 771–775 (1984).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Oosawa, F. & Asakura, S. Thermodynamics of the Polymerization of Protein (Academic, New York, 1975).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Carlier, M.-F., Pantaloni, D. & Korn, E. D. J. biol. Chem. (in the press).

  11. Kristofferson, D. & Purich, D. L. Archs Biochem. Biophys. 211, 222–226 (1981).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Hill, T. L. & Carlier, M.-F. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80, 7234–7238 (1983).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Carlier, M.-F. & Pantaloni, D. Biochemistry 20, 1918–1924 (1981).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Hill, T. L. & Chen, Y.-D. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (in the press).

  15. Hill, T. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. (in the press).

  16. Margolis, R. L. & Wilson, L. Cell 13, 1–8 (1978).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Farrell, K. W. & Jordan, M. A. J. biol. Chem. 257, 3131–3138 (1982).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Cote, R. H. & Borisy, G. G. J. molec. Biol. 150, 577–602 (1981).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Jameson, L. & Caplow, M. J. biol. Chem. 255, 2284–2292 (1980).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Karr, T. L., Kristofferson, D. & Purich, D. L. J. biol. Chem. 255, 8560–8655 (1980).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Pickett-Heaps, J., Tippit, D. H. & Porter, K. R. Cell 29, 729–744 (1982).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Mitchison, T.J. & Kirschner, M.W. in Molecular Biology of the Cytoskeleton (eds Cleveland, D. W., Murphy, D. & Borisy, G. G.) (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, in the press).

  23. McIntosh, J. & Salmon, E. D. J. Cell Biol. (in the press).

  24. Thompson, G. A., Baugh, C. C. & Walker, L. F. J. Cell Biol. 61, 253–257 (1974).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mitchison, T., Kirschner, M. Dynamic instability of microtubule growth. Nature 312, 237–242 (1984).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing