Research Papers:

TUBB3 overexpression has a negligible effect on the sensitivity to taxol in cultured cell lines

Mihoko A. Tame, Anna G. Manjón, Daria Belokhvostova, Jonne A. Raaijmakers and René H. Medema _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:71536-71547. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17740

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Mihoko A. Tame1,*, Anna G. Manjón1,*, Daria Belokhvostova1, Jonne A. Raaijmakers1 and René H. Medema1

1Division of Cell Biology and Cancer Genomics Center, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands

*Co-first author

Correspondence to:

René H. Medema, email: [email protected]

Keywords: taxol, resistance, microtubule, βIII-tubulin, CRISPRa

Received: November 30, 2016     Accepted: April 22, 2017     Published: May 10, 2017


Microtubules are cellular targets for a variety of anticancer therapies because of their critical function in mitosis. Taxol belongs to a class of microtubule targeting agents that suppresses microtubule dynamics and interferes with the functioning of the mitotic spindle, thereby effectively blocking cell cycle progression of rapidly proliferating tumor cells. Despite its antitumor activity, drug resistance remains a common obstacle in improving its overall clinical efficacy. Previous studies have shown that the expression of a specific β-tubulin isotype, βIII-tubulin/TUBB3, is dysregulated in drug-refractory tumors. However, whether enhanced TUBB3 expression is directly involved in promoting taxol resistance remains a subject of debate. Here, we have used several approaches to assess the functional relation of TUBB3 overexpression and taxol resistance. First, we generated a number of taxol-resistant cell lines, to find that TUBB3 expression was elevated in a resistant cell line (RPE-20) derived from untransformed retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, but the abundance of TUBB3 remained unchanged in four other cell lines after taxol treatment. However, although RPE-20 cells displayed enhanced TUBB3 levels, we find that simultaneous up-regulation of the P-glycoprotein (P-gP) drug-efflux pump is responsible for the resistance to taxol. Indeed, we could show that TUBB3 levels were dynamically regulated upon taxol exposure and withdrawal, unrelated to the resistance phenotype. Next, we generated cell lines in which we could induce robust overexpression of TUBB3 from its endogenous locus employing the CRISPRa system. We demonstrate that solely enhancing TUBB3 expression results in a very minor decrease in the sensitivity to taxol. This was further substantiated by selective depletion of TUBB3 in a series of breast cancer cell lines expressing high levels of TUBB3. We find that TUBB3 depletion had a minimal effect on the sensitivity to taxol in one of these cell lines, but had no effect in all of the others. Based on these findings we propose that TUBB3 overexpression can only marginally affect the sensitivity to taxol in cultured cell lines.

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