Class III β-tubulin
Role in Cancer
It has been reported that β3-tubulin is expressed in a wide variety of tumors. Overexpression of this isotype in clinical samples correlates with tumor aggressiveness, resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, and poor patient survival.
The β3 isotype increases tumor aggressiveness by two distinct mechanisms. Incorporation of this isotype makes microtubule networks hypostable, allowing them to resist the cytotoxic effects of microtubule stabilizing drugs like taxanes or epothilones. Mechanistically, it was found that overexpression of β3-tubulin increases the rate of microtubule detachment from microtubule organizing centers, an activity that is suppressed by drugs such as paclitaxel.
Expression of β3-tubulin also makes cells more aggressive by altering their response to drug-induced suppression of microtubule dynamics. Dynamic microtubules are needed for the cell migration that underlies processes such as tumor metastasis and angiogenesis. The dynamics are normally suppressed by low, subtoxic concentrations of microtubule drugs that also inhibit cell migration. However, incorporating β3-tubulin into microtubules increases the concentration of drug that is needed to suppress dynamics and inhibit cell migration. Thus, tumors that express β3-tubulin are not only resistant to the cytotoxic effects of microtubule targeted drugs, but also to their ability to suppress tumor metastasis. Moreover, expression of β3-tubulin also counteracts the ability of these drugs to inhibit angiogenesis which is normally another important facet of their action.
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