The role of stathmin in the regulation of the cell cycle



Stathmin is the founding member of a family of proteins that play critically important roles in the regulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton. Stathmin regulates microtubule dynamics by promoting depolymerization of microtubules and/or preventing polymerization of tubulin heterodimers. Upon entry into mitosis, microtubules polymerize to form the mitotic spindle, a cellular structure that is essential for accurate chromosome segregation and cell division. The microtubule-depolymerizing activity of stathmin is switched off at the onset of mitosis by phosphorylation to allow microtubule polymerization and assembly of the mitotic spindle. Phosphorylated stathmin has to be reactivated by dephosphorylation before cells exit mitosis and enter a new interphase. Interfering with stathmin function by forced expression or inhibition of expression results in reduced cellular proliferation and accumulation of cells in the G2/M phases of the cell cycle. Forced expression of stathmin leads to abnormalities in or a total lack of mitotic spindle assembly and arrest of cells in the early stages of mitosis. On the other hand, inhibition of stathmin expression leads to accumulation of cells in the G2/M phases and is associated with severe mitotic spindle abnormalities and difficulty in the exit from mitosis. Thus, stathmin is critically important not only for the formation of a normal mitotic spindle upon entry into mitosis but also for the regulation of the function of the mitotic spindle in the later stages of mitosis and for the timely exit from mitosis. In this review, we summarize the early studies that led to the identification of the important mitotic function of stathmin and discuss the present understanding of its role in the regulation of microtubules dynamics during cell-cycle progression. We also describe briefly other less mature avenues of investigation which suggest that stathmin may participate in other important biological functions and speculate about the future directions that research in this rapidly developing field may take. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.