Microtubules, purified by cycles of assembly and disassembly in vitro, are composed of tubulin and several microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). When the MAPs were separated from the tubulin by phosphocellulose chromatography, the tubulin by phosphocellulose chromatography, the tubulin no longer assembled at 37 degrees C as measured by turbidity. If the MAPs and tubulin were recombined and warmed to 37 degrees C, microtubules assembled. MAPs stimulated tubulin assembly by affecting both the initiation and elongation processes. The effect on initiation was indicated by results showing an increase in initial rate and a decrease in average microtubule length as the MAP:tubulin ratio was increased. The initiation and elongation activities of the MAPs at 4 degrees C during which time the initiating activity decreased while the ability to affect the total amount of assembly remained constant. The decrease in initiating ability was correlated with the loss of the two major components of the MAP fraction, MAPs 1 and 2.