Differentiation of human colon cancer cells changes the expression of beta-tubulin isotypes and MAPs

Br J Cancer. 1999 Jun;80(8):1162-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6690481.


The human colon adenocarcinoma HT29-D4 cell line is an interesting model for studies on epithelial cell differentiation. Undifferentiated cells are malignant proliferating cells, whereas differentiated cells act like epithelial polarized cells. In the present study, we first characterized the action of taxoids on the microtubular network of HT29-D4 cells according to the state of differentiation. Microtubular bundles were found in undifferentiated cells but not in differentiated cells, even with 500-fold higher taxoid concentrations for 96 h. This finding led us to study changes in microtubules according to the polarity status of the cell. E-MAP-115 was expressed only in differentiated cells; expression of beta-tubulin isotypes was altered in them relative to undifferentiated cells. Classes I, II, III, IVa and IVb isotypes were expressed in both phenotypes; however, differentiated epithelial cells displayed a specific increase in class III beta-tubulin. Thus, the increase in expression of this beta-tubulin isotype in differentiated cells is not restricted to neuronal cells. Moreover, these expression changes may reflect a higher stability of microtubular network in differentiated cells, which may explain the lower activity of anti-microtubule agents, independently of the mitotic process. These results indicate that the composition of microtubules should be considered as one of the criteria involved in the response of tumour cells to chemotherapy with anti-microtubule agents.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • HT29 Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Paclitaxel / analogs & derivatives
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • RNA / biosynthesis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tubulin / analogs & derivatives
  • Tubulin / biosynthesis*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Tubulin
  • RNA
  • Paclitaxel