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FEBS J. 2007 Sep;274(18):4788-801. Epub 2007 Aug 14.

Rotenone inhibits mammalian cell proliferation by inhibiting microtubule assembly through tubulin binding.

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School of Biosciences and Bioengineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India.


Rotenone, a widely used insecticide, has been shown to inhibit mammalian cell proliferation and to depolymerize cellular microtubules. In the present study, the effects of rotenone on the assembly of microtubules in relation to its ability to inhibit cell proliferation and mitosis were analyzed. We found that rotenone inhibited the proliferation of HeLa and MCF-7 cells with half maximal inhibitory concentrations of 0.2 +/- 0.1 microm and 0.4 +/- 0.1 microm, respectively. At its effective inhibitory concentration range, rotenone depolymerized spindle microtubules of both cell types. However, it had a much stronger effect on the interphase microtubules of MCF-7 cells compared to that of the HeLa cells. Rotenone suppressed the reassembly of microtubules in living HeLa cells, suggesting that it can suppress microtubule growth rates. Furthermore, it reduced the intercentrosomal distance in HeLa cells at its lower effective concentration range and induced multipolar-spindle formation at a relatively higher concentration range. It also increased the level of checkpoint protein BubR1 at the kinetochore region. Rotenone inhibited both the assembly and the GTP hydrolysis rate of microtubules in vitro. It also inhibited the binding of colchicine to tubulin, perturbed the secondary structure of tubulin, and reduced the intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence of tubulin and the extrinsic fluorescence of tubulin-1-anilinonaphthalene-8-sulfonic acid complex, suggesting that it binds to tubulin. A dissociation constant of 3 +/- 0.6 microm was estimated for tubulin-rotenone complex. The data presented suggest that rotenone blocks mitosis and inhibits cell proliferation by perturbing microtubule assembly dynamics.

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