Sellin ME, Holmfeldt P, Stenmark S, Gullberg M
Experimental Cell Research 314 (6) 1367-1377 [2008-04-01; online 2008-01-05]
Op18/stathmin (Op18) is a phosphorylation-regulated and differentially expressed microtubule-destabilizing protein in animal cells. Op18 regulates tubulin monomer-polymer partitioning of the interphase microtubule system and forms complexes with tubulin heterodimers. Recent reports have shown that specific tubulin-folding cofactors and related proteins may disrupt tubulin heterodimers. We therefore investigated whether Op18 protects unpolymerized tubulin from such disruptive activities. Our approach was based on inducible overexpression of two tubulin-disrupting proteins, namely TBCE, which is required for tubulin biogenesis, and E-like, which has been proposed to regulate tubulin turnover and microtubule stability. Expression of either of these proteins was found to cause a rapid degradation of both alpha-tubulin and beta-tubulin subunits of unpolymerized, but not polymeric, tubulin heterodimers. We found that depletion of Op18 by means of RNA interference increased the susceptibility of tubulin to TBCE or E-like mediated disruption, while overexpressed Op18 exerted a tubulin-protective effect. Tubulin protection was shown to depend on Op18 levels, binding affinity, and the partitioning between tubulin monomers and polymers. Hence, the present study reveals that Op18 at physiologically relevant levels functions to preserve the integrity of tubulin heterodimers, which may serve to regulate tubulin turnover rates.