Tuning microtubule dynamics to enhance cancer therapy by modulating FER-mediated CRMP2 phosphorylation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Yiyan Zheng
  • Ritika Sethi
  • Lingegowda S Mangala
  • Charlotte Taylor
  • Juliet Goldsmith
  • Ming Wang
  • Kenta Masuda
  • Mohammad Karaminejadranjbar
  • David Mannion
  • Fabrizio Miranda
  • Sandra Herrero-Gonzalez
  • Karin Hellner
  • Fiona Chen
  • Abdulkhaliq Alsaadi
  • Ashwag Albukhari
  • Donatien Chedom Fotso
  • Dahai Jiang
  • Sunila Pradeep
  • Cristian Rodriguez-Aguayo
  • Gabriel Lopez-Berestein
  • Stefan Knapp
  • Nathanael S Gray
  • Leticia Campo
  • Kevin A Myers
  • Sunanda Dhar
  • David Ferguson
  • Robert C Bast
  • Anil K Sood
  • Frank von Delft
  • Ahmed Ashour Ahmed

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Oxford
  • Center for RNAi and Non-Coding RNA, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.
  • Biochemistry Department, Faculty of Science, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, 21551, Saudi Arabia.
  • Department of Gynecologic Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030, USA.
  • Department of Experimental Therapeutics, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.
  • Goethe-University Frankfurt, Institute for Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Buchmann Institute for Life Sciences, Riedberg Campus, Frankfurt am Main, 60438, Germany.
  • Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, 02215, USA.
  • Department of Oncology, Old Road Campus Research Building, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford, OX3 7DQ, UK.
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Department of Biochemistry, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, 2006, South Africa.


Though used widely in cancer therapy, paclitaxel only elicits a response in a fraction of patients. A strong determinant of paclitaxel tumor response is the state of microtubule dynamic instability. However, whether the manipulation of this physiological process can be controlled to enhance paclitaxel response has not been tested. Here, we show a previously unrecognized role of the microtubule-associated protein CRMP2 in inducing microtubule bundling through its carboxy terminus. This activity is significantly decreased when the FER tyrosine kinase phosphorylates CRMP2 at Y479 and Y499. The crystal structures of wild-type CRMP2 and CRMP2-Y479E reveal how mimicking phosphorylation prevents tetramerization of CRMP2. Depletion of FER or reducing its catalytic activity using sub-therapeutic doses of inhibitors increases paclitaxel-induced microtubule stability and cytotoxicity in ovarian cancer cells and in vivo. This work provides a rationale for inhibiting FER-mediated CRMP2 phosphorylation to enhance paclitaxel on-target activity for cancer therapy.


Original languageEnglish
Article number476
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018