To investigate the mechanism of action of the antineoplastic drug estramustine, we compared its effects on human prostate cancer cells with those of vinblastine. At their respective concentrations that result in 50% inhibition of clonogenic growth, both drugs caused an accumulation of cells blocked at mitosis and similar dose- and time-dependent depolymerization of interphase microtubules. Also, colcemid-resistant and colcemid-hypersensitive Chinese hamster ovary cells with tubulin mutations were collaterally cross-resistant or -sensitive to estramustine. Thus, the cytotoxicity of estramustine is due to its microtubule depolymerization properties. This could be caused by interaction with tubulin and/or with microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Previous investigations have shown that high concentrations of estramustine phosphate can inhibit microtubule polymerization in vitro by binding to MAPs. However, estramustine phosphate is the clinical prodrug to estramustine, the intracellular active compound. In this study, we investigated the effects of estramustine on the binding of MAPs to taxol-stabilized microtubulesin vivo. In contrast to previous reports, no effect of estramustine on the binding of MAPs to microtubules was found. Furthermore, we found that polymerization of purified tubulin could be inhibited by estramustine in vitro. Taken together, these results demonstrate that estramustine causes depolymerization of microtubules by direct interaction with tubulin.

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This work was funded in part by Grant CA52962 from the National Institutes of Health to F. C.

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