Stathmin is a small regulatory phosphoprotein integrating diverse intracellular signaling pathways. It is also the generic element of a protein family including the neural proteins SCG10, SCLIP, RB3 and its two splice variants RB3′ and RB3″. Stathmin itself was shown to interact in vitro with tubulin in a phosphorylation-dependent manner, sequestering free tubulin and hence promoting microtubule depolymerization. We investigated the intracellular distribution and tubulin depolymerizing activity in vivo of all known members of the stathmin family. Whereas stathmin is not associated with interphase microtubules in HeLa cells, a fraction of it is concentrated at the mitotic spindle. We generated antisera specific for stathmin phosphoforms, which allowed us to visualize the regulation of phosphorylation-dephosphorylation during the successive stages of mitosis, and the partial localization of stathmin phosphorylated on serine 16 at the mitotic spindle. Results from overexpression experiments of wild-type and novel phosphorylation site mutants of stathmin further suggest that it induces depolymerization of interphase and mitotic microtubules in its unphosphorylated state but is inactivated by phosphorylation in mitosis. Phosphorylation of mutants 16A25A and 38A63A on sites 38 and 63 or 16 and 25, respectively, was sufficient for the formation of a functional spindle, whereas mutant 16A25A38A63E retained a microtubule depolymerizing activity. Transient expression of each of the neural phosphoproteins of the stathmin family showed that they are at least partially associated to the Golgi apparatus and not to other major membrane compartments, probably through their different NH2-terminal domains, as described for SCG10. Most importantly, like stathmin and SCG10, overexpressed SCLIP, RB3 and RB3″ were able to depolymerize interphase microtubules. Altogether, our results demonstrate in vivo the functional conservation of the stathmin domain within each protein of the stathmin family, with a microtubule destabilizing activity most likely essential for their specific biological function(s).

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