The effect of podophyllotoxin on microtubule dynamics
We have investigated the effects of podophyllotoxin on the dynamic properties of microtubules assembled from pure tubulin dimer. Excess podophyllotoxin causes the complete disassembly of microtubules, through formation of a tubulin-GTP-podophyllotoxin ternary complex with a dissociation rate constant of 160 s-1 at 37 degrees C, similar to that found upon extensive isothermal dilution in this buffer system. Addition of substoichiometric concentrations of podophyllotoxin causes partial disassembly of microtubules through production of an equivalent amount of the ternary complex. Microtubule length measurements and incorporation of [3H]GTP-tubulin dimer show that podophyllotoxin can suppress the dynamic instability of tubulin dimer microtubules and that it acts substoichiometrically in so doing. We interpret the action of substoichiometric podophyllotoxin on microtubule ends in terms of effects on interconversion of growing and shrinking microtubules in a dynamic system in which tubulin-GTP-podophyllotoxin is kinetically analogous to tubulin-GTP in addition and to tubulin-GDP in dissociation. The ability to suppress dynamic instability may be one way in which drugs such as podophyllotoxin, acting at relatively low concentrations, are able to arrest cell growth and development in a selective way, without necessarily affecting the integrity of the major part of the cytoskeletal microtubule network.