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Biochemistry. 2006 Jan 10;45(1):185-94.

Mutations at leucine 215 of beta-tubulin affect paclitaxel sensitivity by two distinct mechanisms.

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Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, University of Texas Medical School, 6431 Fannin Street, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Paclitaxel resistance mutations in Chinese hamster ovary cells frequently alter a cluster of leucine residues in the H6-H7 loop region of beta-tubulin. To gain further insight into the role of this region in microtubule assembly and drug resistance, site-directed mutagenesis was used to systematically change amino acid L215. The mutated genes were cloned into a tetracycline-regulated expression vector and transfected into wild-type cells. Most of the mutations destabilized microtubule assembly, causing a decreased fraction of tubulin to appear in the microtubule cytoskeleton. In each case, the decreased level of assembly was associated with paclitaxel resistance and increased colcemid sensitivity. In two cases, however, the alteration did not significantly perturb the level of assembled tubulin or confer resistance to paclitaxel. One of these, L215V, produced little or no detectable phenotype, while the other, L215I, conferred increased sensitivity to paclitaxel. The increased drug sensitivity did not extend to epothilone A, a drug that binds to the same site and has a mechanism of action similar to that of paclitaxel, or colcemid, a drug with an opposing mechanism of action and a distinct binding site. Moreover, L215I conferred enhanced paclitaxel sensitivity at very low levels of expression, and sensitivity was not further enhanced in cells with higher levels of expression, implying that paclitaxel acts substoichiometrically. These properties, along with the proximity of L215 to the drug binding site, suggests that the L215I substitution may enhance the binding or effectiveness of paclitaxel. Our studies confirm the importance of the H6-H7 loop of beta-tubulin in microtubule assembly and resistance to antimitotic drugs. They also identify the first mammalian mutation shown to specifically increase sensitivity to paclitaxel.

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