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Toward Discovery of Novel Microtubule Targeting Agents

A SNAP-tag-Based High-Content Screening Assay for the Analysis of Microtubule Dynamics and Cell Cycle Progression
: Berges, N.; Arens, K.; Kreusch, V.; Fischer, R.; Fiore, S. di


SLAS discovery 22 (2017), No.4, pp.387-398
ISSN: 2472-5552
ISSN: 2472-5560
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung BMBF
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IME ()

Microtubule targeting agents (MTAs) are used for the treatment of cancer. Novel MTAs could provide additional and beneficial therapeutic options. To improve the sensitivity and throughput of standard immunofluorescence assays for the characterization of MTAs, we used SNAP-tag technology to produce recombinant tubulin monomers. To visualize microtubule filaments, A549 cells transfected with SNAP-tubulin were stained with a membrane-permeable, SNAP-reactive dye. The treatment of SNAP-tubulin cells with stabilizing MTAs such as paclitaxel resulted in the formation of coarsely structured microtubule filaments, whereas depolymerizing MTAs such as nocodazole resulted in diffuse staining patterns in which the tubulin filaments were no longer distinguishable. By combining these components with automated microscopy and image analysis algorithms, we established a robust high-content screening assay for MTAs with a Z' factor of 0.7. Proof of principle was achieved by testing a panel of 10 substances, allowing us to identify MTAs and to distinguish between stabilizing and destabilizing modes of action. By extending the treatment of the cells from 2 to 20 h, our assay also detected abnormalities in cell cycle progression and in the formation of microtubule spindles, providing additional readouts for the discovery of new MTAs and facilitating their early identification during drug-screening campaigns.