Dolastatin 15, a seven-subunit depsipeptide derived from Dolabella auricularia, is a potent antimitotic agent structurally related to the antitubulin agent dolastatin 10, a five-subunit peptide obtained from the same organism. We have compared dolastatin 15 with dolastatin 10 for its effects on cells grown in culture and on biochemical properties of tubulin. The IC50 values for cell growth were obtained for dolastatin 15 with L1210 murine leukemia cells, human Burkitt lymphoma cells, and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells (3, 3, and 5 nM with the three cell lines, respectively). For dolastatin 10, IC50 values of 0.4 and 0.5 nM were obtained with the L1210 and CHO cells, respectively. At toxic concentrations dolastatin 15 caused the leukemia and lymphoma cells to arrest in mitosis. In the CHO cells both dolastatin 15 and dolastatin 10 caused moderate loss of microtubules at the IC50 values and complete disappearance of microtubules at concentrations 10-fold higher. Despite its potency and the loss of microtubules in treated cells, the interaction of dolastatin 15 with tubulin in vitro was weak. Its IC50 value for inhibition of glutamate-induced polymerization of tubulin was 23 microM, as compared to values of 1.2 microM for dolastatin 10 and 1.5 microM for vinblastine. Dolastatin 10 noncompetitively inhibits the binding of vincristine to tubulin, inhibits nucleotide exchange, stabilizes the colchicine binding activity of tubulin, and inhibits tubulin-dependent GTP hydrolysis (Bai et al., Biochem Pharmacol 39: 1941-1949, 1990; Bai et al. J Biol Chem 265: 17141-17149, 1990). Only the latter reaction was inhibited by dolastatin 15. Nevertheless, its structural similarity to dolastatin 10 indicates that dolastatin 15 may bind weakly in the "vinca domain" of tubulin (a region of the protein we postulate to be physically close to but not identical with the specific binding site of vinca alkaloids and maytansinoids), presumably in the same site as dolastatin 10 (the "peptide site").