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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Apr 24;98(9):5312-6. Epub 2001 Apr 17.

The binding conformation of Taxol in beta-tubulin: a model based on electron crystallographic density.

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Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The chemotherapeutic drug Taxol is known to interact within a specific site on beta-tubulin. Although the general location of the site has been defined by photoaffinity labeling and electron crystallography, the original data were insufficient to make an absolute determination of the bound conformation. We have now correlated the crystallographic density with analysis of Taxol conformations and have found the unique solution to be a T-shaped Taxol structure. This T-shaped or butterfly structure is optimized within the beta-tubulin site and exhibits functional similarity to a portion of the B9-B10 loop in the alpha-tubulin subunit. The model provides structural rationalization for a sizeable body of Taxol structure-activity relationship data, including binding affinity, photoaffinity labeling, and acquired mutation in human cancer cells.

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