Docetaxel promotes the assembly of microtubules from tubulin dimers and stabilizes microtubules by preventing depolymerization. This stability results in the inhibition of the normal dynamic reorganization of the microtubule network that is essential for vital interphase and mitotic cellular functions. In addition, docetaxel induces abnormal arrays or “bundles” of microtubules throughout the cell cycle and multiple asters of microtubules during mitosis. Therefore, Docetaxel interferes with the normal function of microtubule growth. Whereas drugs like colchicine cause the depolymerization of microtubules in vivo, Docetaxel arrests their function by having the opposite effect; it hyper-stabilizes their structure. This destroys the cell’s ability to use its cytoskeleton in a flexible manner. Specifically, Docetaxel binds to the β-subunit of tubulin. Tubulin is the “building block” of mictotubules, and the binding of docetaxel locks these building blocks in place. The resulting microtubule/Docetaxel complex does not have the ability to disassemble. This adversely affects cell function because the shortening and lengthening of microtubules (termed dynamic instability) is necessary for their function as a transportation highway for the cell. Chromosomes, for example, rely upon this property of microtubules during mitosis. Further research has indicated that Docetaxel induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells by binding to an apoptosis stopping protein called Bcl-2 (B-cell leukemia 2) and thus arresting its function.
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