Establishing a High-content Analysis Method for Tubulin Polymerization to Evaluate Both the Stabilizing and Destabilizing Activities of Compounds

Chi Shing Sum, Debra Nickischer, Ming Lei, Andrea Weston, Litao Zhang, Liang Schweizer*
Lead Discovery and Optimization, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, USA

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© Sum et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Lead Discovery and Optimization, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, USA; Tel: (609)818-6759; E-mail:


Microtubules are important components of the cellular cytoskeleton that play roles in various cellular processes such as vesicular transport and spindle formation during mitosis. They are formed by an ordered organization of α-tubulin and β-tubulin hetero-polymers. Altering microtubule polymerization has been known to be the mechanism of action for a number of therapeutically important drugs including taxanes and epothilones. Traditional cell-based assays for tubulin-interacting compounds rely on their indirect effects on cell cycle and/or cell proliferation. Direct monitoring of compound effects on microtubules is required to dissect detailed mechanisms of action in a cellular setting. Here we report a high-content assay platform to monitor tubulin polymerization status by directly measuring the acute effects of drug candidates on the cellular tubulin network with the capability to dissect the mechanisms of action. This high-content analysis distinguishes in a quantitative manner between compounds that act as tubulin stabilizers versus those that are tubulin destabilizers. In addition, using a multiplex approach, we expanded this analysis to simultaneously monitor physiological cellular responses and associated cellular phenotypes.

Keywords: High-content analysis, microtubule polymerization, tubulin stabilizer, destabilizer.