LY195448 is an experimental drug that blocks cells at metaphase (Boder et al.: Microtubules and Microtubule Inhibitors 1985: 353-361, 1985). A 4 hour exposure of NRK cells to a drug concentration of 46 microM (15 micrograms/ml) increased the number of mitotic cells in the population from 4.9% to 18.5%. Examination of treated cells by immunofluorescence showed increased numbers of cells blocked at prometaphase, with short microtubules extending from the spindle pole to the kinetochores. The cytoskeleton of interphase cells remained intact at these concentrations. However, the number of microtubules appeared to be reduced, and those that remained appeared kinkier and curled, particularly toward the periphery of the cells. When cytoskeletal microtubules of NRK cells were depolymerized with nocodazole, they reassembled within minutes of transfer to drug-free media. However, nocodazole-treated cells transferred to fresh media containing 15 micrograms/ml of LY195448 required 2-3 times longer to reassemble cytoplasmic microtubules. Previously isolated Chinese hamster ovary cell microtubule mutants resistant to either taxol or Colcemid were tested for cross-resistance to this drug. Cell lines resistant to the depolymerizing drug Colcemid exhibited increased resistance to LY195448 compared to wild-type cells, whereas taxol resistant cell lines were more sensitive. Of eleven newly isolated mutant CHO cell lines selected for increased resistance to LY195448, seven exhibited an altered beta-tubulin protein by two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. These 11 cell lines also showed a heterogenous pattern of resistance to several microtubule-active drugs. These data demonstrate that LY195448 is cytotoxic to mammalian cells because it inhibits microtubule assembly, most likely through a direct interaction with tubulin.