Microtubules and their role in cellular stress in cancer

Front Oncol. 2014 Jun 18;4:153. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2014.00153. eCollection 2014.


Microtubules are highly dynamic structures, which consist of α- and β-tubulin heterodimers, and are involved in cell movement, intracellular trafficking, and mitosis. In the context of cancer, the tubulin family of proteins is recognized as the target of the tubulin-binding chemotherapeutics, which suppress the dynamics of the mitotic spindle to cause mitotic arrest and cell death. Importantly, changes in microtubule stability and the expression of different tubulin isotypes as well as altered post-translational modifications have been reported for a range of cancers. These changes have been correlated with poor prognosis and chemotherapy resistance in solid and hematological cancers. However, the mechanisms underlying these observations have remained poorly understood. Emerging evidence suggests that tubulins and microtubule-associated proteins may play a role in a range of cellular stress responses, thus conferring survival advantage to cancer cells. This review will focus on the importance of the microtubule-protein network in regulating critical cellular processes in response to stress. Understanding the role of microtubules in this context may offer novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cancer.

Keywords: microtubule-associated proteins; microtubules; post-translational modifications; stress response; tubulin.

Publication types

  • Review