Stathmin (STMN1) protein functions to regulate assembly of the microtubule cytoskeleton by destabilizing microtubule polymers. Stathmin over-expression has been correlated with cancer stage progression, while stathmin depletion leads to death of some cancer cell lines in culture. In contrast, stathmin-null mice are viable with minor axonopathies and loss of innate fear response. Several stathmin binding partners, in addition to tubulin, have been shown to affect cell motility in culture. To expand our understanding of stathmin function in normal cells, we compared gene expression profiles, measured by microarray and qRT-PCR, of mouse embryo fibroblasts isolated from STMN1+/+ and STMN1-/- mice to determine the transcriptome level changes present in the genetic knock-out of stathmin.
Microarray analysis of STMN1 loss at a fold change threshold of ≥ 2.0 revealed expression changes for 437 genes, of which 269 were up-regulated and 168 were down-regulated. Microarray data and qRT-PCR analysis of mRNA expression demonstrated changes in the message levels for STMN4, encoding RB3, a protein related to stathmin, and in alterations to many tubulin isotype mRNAs. KEGG Pathway analysis of the microarray data indicated changes to cell motility-related genes, and qRT-PCR plates specific for focal adhesion and ECM proteins generally confirmed the microarray data. Several microtubule assembly regulators and motors were also differentially regulated in STMN1-/- cells, but these changes should not compensate for loss of stathmin.
Approximately 50% of genes up or down regulated (at a fold change of ≥ 2) in STMN1-/- mouse embryo fibroblasts function broadly in cell adhesion and motility. These results support models indicating a role for stathmin in regulating cell locomotion, but also suggest that this functional activity may involve changes to the cohort of proteins expressed in the cell, rather than as a direct consequence of stathmin-dependent regulation of the microtubule cytoskeleton.