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Cancer Biol Ther. 2010 Jan;9(1):66-76. Epub 2010 Jan 28.

Delocalization of gamma-tubulin due to increased solubility in human breast cancer cell lines.

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University of Maryland School of Medicine and Graduate Program in Life Sciences, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum NCI Cancer Center, Department of Physiology, Baltimore, MD, USA.


The centrosome is the major organelle responsible for the nucleation and organization of microtubules into arrays. Recent studies demonstrate that microtubules can nucleate outside the centrosome. The molecular mechanisms controlling acentrosomal microtubule nucleation are currently poorly defined, and the function of this type of microtubule regulation in tumor cell biology is particularly unclear. Since microtubule nucleation is initiated by the gamma-tubulin protein, we examined the regulation of gamma-tubulin in a panel of human breast tumor cell lines, ranging from non-tumorigenic to highly aggressive. We have identified a more dispersive subcellular localization of gamma-tubulin in aggressive breast cancer cell lines, while gamma-tubulin localization remains largely centrosomal in non-aggressive cell lines. Delocalization of gamma-tubulin occurs independently from changes in protein expression and is therefore regulated at the post-translational level. Subcellular fractionation revealed that tumor cell lines show an aberrantly increased release of gamma-tubulin into a soluble cytoplasmic fraction, with the most dramatic changes observed in tumor cell lines of greater aggressiveness. Extraction of soluble gamma-tubulin revealed acentrosomal incorporation of gamma-tubulin in cytoplasmic microtubules and along cell junctions. Moreover, acentrosomal delocalization of gamma-tubulin yielded resistance to colchicine-mediated microtubule collapse. These findings support a model where the solubility of gamma-tubulin can be altered through post-translational modification and provides a new mechanism for microtubule dysregulation in breast cancer. Gamma-tubulin that is delocalized from the centrosome can still clearly be incorporated into filaments, and defines a novel mechanism for tumor cells to develop resistance to microtubule-targeted chemotherapies.

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