Paclitaxel (Taxol) and the epothilones are antimitotic agents that promote the assembly of mammalian tubulin and stabilization of microtubules. The epothilones competitively inhibit the binding of paclitaxel to mammalian brain tubulin, suggesting that the two types of compounds share a common binding site in tubulin, despite the lack of structural similarities. It is known that paclitaxel does not stabilize microtubules formed in vitro from Saccharomyces cerevisiae tubulin; thus, it would be expected that the epothilones would not affect yeast microtubules. However, we found that epothilone A and B do stimulate the formation of microtubules from purified yeast tubulin. In addition, epothilone B severely dampens the dynamics of yeast microtubules in vitro in a manner similar to the effect of paclitaxel on mammalian microtubules. We used current models describing paclitaxel and epothilone binding to mammalian beta-tubulin to explain why paclitaxel apparently fails to bind to yeast tubulin. We propose that three amino acid substitutions in the N-terminal region and at position 227 in yeast beta-tubulin weaken the interaction of the 3'-benzamido group of paclitaxel with the protein. These results also indicate that mutagenesis of yeast tubulin could help define the sites of interaction with paclitaxel and the epothilones.
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