Survivin deregulation in β-tubulin mutant ovarian cancer cells underlies their compromised mitotic response to Taxol
Taxol is one of the most successful drugs for the treatment of cancer because of its ability to target tubulin, block cell cycle progression at mitosis, and induce apoptosis. Despite the success of Taxol, the development of drug resistance hampers its clinical applicability. Herein we report that beta-tubulin mutant, Taxol-resistant ovarian cancer cells exhibit defective mitotic response to Taxol, even at high concentrations that are sufficient to trigger apoptosis. This mitotic response-defective phenotype is independent of p53 status. We have found that survivin, the mitosis regulator and inhibitor of apoptosis protein, is deregulated in these Taxol-resistant cancer cells; Taxol fails to induce survivin levels and survivin phosphorylation in these cells, in contrast to their parental drug-sensitive counterparts. Exogenous expression of wild-type survivin is able to restore the mitotic response of the resistant cells to Taxol treatment. On the other hand, exogenous expression of dominant-negative survivin abrogates the Taxol-induced mitotic response in drug-sensitive cancer cells. We have also found that overexpression of the mitotic kinase Cdk1, which phosphorylates survivin, is unable to restore the Taxol-induced mitotic response in the resistant cells. Our results show the importance of survivin for the mitotic response in the context of Taxol resistance and provide novel insights into the mechanisms of mitotic arrest and apoptosis induced by microtubule-targeting agents.