Chinese hamster ovary cell mutants resistant to the microtubule stabilizing drug taxol were isolated in a single step. Of these 139 drug-resistant mutants, 59 exhibit an absolute requirement for taxol for normal growth and division, 13 have a partial requirement, and 69 grow normally without the drug. Two-dimensional gel analysis of whole cell proteins reveal "extra" spots representing altered tubulins in 13 of the mutants. Six of these have an altered alpha-tubulin and seven have an altered beta-tubulin. Cells with an absolute dependence on taxol become large and multinucleated when deprived of the drug. In contrast, partially dependent cells exhibit some multinucleation, but most cells appear normal. In one mutant that has an absolute dependence on taxol, the cells appear to die more quickly and their nuclei do not increase in size or number. As previously found for another taxol-dependent mutant (Cabral, F., 1983, J. Cell. Biol., 97:22-29), the taxol dependence of the mutants described in this paper behaves recessively in somatic cell hybrids, and the cells are more susceptible to being killed by colcemid than are the wild-type parental cells. When compared with wild-type cells, taxol-dependent mutants have normal arrays of cytoplasmic microtubules but form much smaller mitotic spindles in the presence of taxol. When deprived of the drug, however, these mutants cannot complete assembly of the mitotic spindle apparatus, as judged by tubulin immunofluorescence. Thus, the defects leading to taxol dependence in these mutants with defined alterations in alpha- and beta-tubulin appear to result from the cell's inability to form a functional mitotic spindle. Reversion analysis indicates that the properties of at least one alpha-tubulin mutant are conferred by the altered tubulin seen on two-dimensional gels.

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