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Cancer Res. 1996 Feb 15;56(4):816-25.

Mitotic block induced in HeLa cells by low concentrations of paclitaxel (Taxol) results in abnormal mitotic exit and apoptotic cell death.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of California Santa Barbara 93106, USA.


Paclitaxel at low concentrations (10 nM for 20 h) induces approximately 90% mitotic block at the metaphase/anaphase transition in HeLa cells, apparently by suppressing dynamics of spindle microtubules (M. A. Jordan et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 90: 9552-9556, 1993). It is not known, however, whether inhibition of mitosis by such low paclitaxel concentrations results in cell death. In the present work, we found that after removal of paclitaxel (10 nM-1 microM), blocked cells did not resume proliferation. Instead, cells exited mitosis abnormally within 24 h. They did not progress through anaphase or cytokinesis but entered an interphase-like state (chromatin decondensed, and an interphase-like microtubule array and nuclear membranes reformed). Many cells (> or = 55%) contained multiple nuclei. Additional DNA synthesis and polyploidy did not occur. DNA degradation into nucleosome-sized fragments characteristic of apoptosis began during drug incubation and increased after drug removal. Cells died within 48-72 h. Incubation with paclitaxel (10 nM for 20 h) resulted in high intracellular drug accumulation (8.3 microM) and little efflux after paclitaxel removal; intracellular retention of paclitaxel may contribute to its efficacy. The results support the hypothesis that the most potent chemotherapeutic mechanism of paclitaxel is kinetic stabilization of spindle microtubule dynamics.

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