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Biomacromolecules. 2013 Mar 11;14(3):654-64. doi: 10.1021/bm301719b. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Paclitaxel-conjugated PAMAM dendrimers adversely affect microtubule structure through two independent modes of action.

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Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Paclitaxel (Taxol) is an anticancer drug that induces mitotic arrest via microtubule hyperstabilization but causes side effects due to its hydrophobicity and cellular promiscuity. The targeted cytotoxicity of hydrophilic paclitaxel-conjugated polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers has been demonstrated in cultured cancer cells. Mechanisms of action responsible for this cytotoxicity are unknown, that is, whether the cytotoxicity is due to paclitaxel stabilization of microtubules, as is whether paclitaxel is released intracellularly from the dendrimer. To determine whether the conjugated paclitaxel can bind microtubules, we used a combination of ensemble and single microtubule imaging techniques in vitro. We demonstrate that these conjugates adversely affect microtubules by (1) promoting the polymerization and stabilization of microtubules in a paclitaxel-dependent manner, and (2) bundling preformed microtubules in a paclitaxel-independent manner, potentially due to protonation of tertiary amines in the dendrimer interior. Our results provide mechanistic insights into the cytotoxicity of paclitaxel-conjugated PAMAM dendrimers and uncover unexpected risks of using such conjugates therapeutically.

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