Identification of Inhibitors of Tubulin Polymerization Using a CRISPR-Edited Cell Line with Endogenous Fluorescent Tagging of β-Tubulin and Histone H1

Biomolecules. 2023 Jan 29;13(2):249. doi: 10.3390/biom13020249.


Tubulin is a protein that plays a critical role in maintaining cellular structure and facilitating cell division. Inhibiting tubulin polymerization has been shown to be an effective strategy for inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. In the past, identifying compounds that could inhibit tubulin polymerization has required the use of in vitro assays utilizing purified tubulin or immunofluorescence of fixed cells. This study presents a novel approach for identifying tubulin polymerization inhibitors using a CRISPR-edited cell line that expresses fluorescently tagged β-tubulin and a nuclear protein, enabling the visualization of tubulin polymerization dynamics via high-content imaging analysis (HCI). The cells were treated with known tubulin polymerization inhibitors, colchicine, and vincristine, and the resulting phenotypic changes indicative of tubulin polymerization inhibition were confirmed using HCI. Furthermore, a library of 429 kinase inhibitors was screened, resulting in the identification of three compounds (ON-01910, HMN-214, and KX2-391) that inhibit tubulin polymerization. Live cell tracking analysis confirmed that compound treatment leads to rapid tubulin depolymerization. These findings suggest that CRISPR-edited cells with fluorescently tagged endogenous β-tubulin can be utilized to screen large compound libraries containing diverse chemical families for the identification of novel tubulin polymerization inhibitors.

Keywords: CRISPR; gene; high-content; high-throughput; homologous; imaging; inhibitors; polymerization; recombination; screening; tagging; tubulin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Polymerization
  • Tubulin Modulators / chemistry
  • Tubulin* / metabolism


  • Tubulin
  • Tubulin Modulators
  • Histones
  • Antineoplastic Agents