The phenotypes induced by the expression of neuronal microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) in Sf9 cells have provided data on the in situ function of these proteins. Both MAP2 and tau can induce long processes in Sf9 cells, and the processes contain bundles of microtubules. In both cases the microtubules are aligned with their plus ends distal. Tau expression usually induces a single process that is unbranched and of uniform caliber. Processes can form even when the cells are grown in suspension. Microtubules do not extend all the way to the tip; instead the terminal region contains an actin-rich meshwork. Taxol treatment of Sf9 cells also induces the assembly of microtubules into bundles but does not induce process formation in Sf9 cells. Therefore the in vitro properties of tau as a molecule capable of assembling, stabilizing, and bundling microtubules do not fully account for the in vivo ability of tau alone to transduce microtubule assembly into a change in cell shape. The morphological features of the processes induced by MAP2 differ in highly informative ways.