Molecular basis of resistance to the microtubule-depolymerizing antitumor compound plocabulin

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 5;8(1):8616. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26736-3.


Plocabulin (PM060184) is a microtubule depolymerizing agent with potent antiproliferative activity undergoing phase II clinical trials for the treatment of solid tumors. Plocabulin shows antifungal activity virtually abolishing growth of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans. A. nidulans hyphae depend both on mitotic and interphase microtubules, as human cells. Here, we exploited the A. nidulans genetic amenability to gain insight into the mechanism of action of plocabulin. By combining mutations in the two A. nidulans β-tubulin isotypes we obtained a plocabulin-insensitive strain, showing that β-tubulin is the only molecular target of plocabulin in fungal cells. From a genetic screen, we recovered five mutants that show plocabulin resistance but do not carry mutations in β-tubulin. Resistance mutations resulted in amino acid substitutions in (1) two subunits of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF2B activating the General Amino Acid Control, (2) TIM44, an essential component of the inner mitochondrial membrane translocase, (3) two transcription factors of the binuclear zinc cluster family potentially interfering with the uptake or efflux of plocabulin. Given the conservation of some of the identified proteins and their respective cellular functions in the tumor environment, our results pinpoint candidates to be tested as potential biomarkers for determination of drug efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspergillus nidulans / drug effects*
  • Drug Resistance, Fungal
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Microtubules / drug effects*
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Polyketides / pharmacology*
  • Pyrones / pharmacology*
  • Tubulin / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Polyketides
  • Pyrones
  • Tubulin
  • plocabulin