Class III β-tubulin and the cytoskeletal gateway for drug resistance in ovarian cancer

Marta De Donato, Marisa Mariani, Lella Petrella, Enrica Martinelli, Gian Franco Zannoni, Valerio Vellone, Gabriella Ferrandina, Shohreh Shahabi, Giovanni Scambia, Cristiano Ferlini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The Class III β-tubulin isotype (βIII-tubulin) is a predictive biomarker in ovarian cancer and other solid tumor malignancies. We discovered that βIII-tubulin function is linked to two GTPases: guanylate-binding protein 1 (GBP1), which activates its function, and GNAI1, which inhibits it. This finding was demonstrated in a panel of ovarian cancer cells resistant to several chemotherapeutic agents. Using a protein microarray, we identified PIM1 as the downstream partner of GBP1, recruited into the cytoskeleton under hypoxic conditions. The clinical value of these observations was tested by performing an archive study of 98 ovarian cancer patients, which demonstrated that the βIII-tubulin -/PIM1- cohort responded to treatment, exhibiting long overall survival (OS), while βIII-tubulin +/PIM+ patients experienced poor outcomes and OS times similar to patients receiving palliation alone. βIII-tubulin expression is commonly believed responsible for paclitaxel resistance due to its enhancement of the dynamic instability of microtubules, which counteracts the activity of taxanes. In contrast, our research reveals that βIII-tubulin behaves as a gateway for prosurvival signals, such as PIM1, to move into the cytoskeleton. When cells are exposed to microenvironmental stressors, they activate this pathway by telling the cytoskeleton to incorporate PIM1 through GBP1 and βIII-tubulin, which ultimately leads to drug resistance. This discovery reveals that βIII-tubulin does not act alone but requires partners to play its role. The discovery of such protein:protein interactions underlying this prosurvival cascade makes feasible the development of therapeutic approaches using novel compounds that are capable of inhibiting the transmission of prosurvival signals into the cytoskeleton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1034-1041
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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