The RAS association domain family 1A (RASSF1A) gene is silenced by DNA methylation in over 50% of all solid tumors of different histological types. However, the biochemical function of the RASSF1A protein is unknown. We show that RASSF1A colocalizes with microtubules in interphase and decorates spindles and centrosomes during mitosis. RASSF1A has a strong cytoprotective activity against the microtubule-destabilizing drug nocodazole, and against cold-treatment in vivo. Conversely, loss of RASSF1 in RASSF1-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts renders the cells more sensitive to nocodazole-induced depolymerization of microtubules. The domain required for both microtubule association and stabilization was mapped to a 169 amino-acid fragment that contains the RAS association domain. Overexpression of RASSF1A induces mitotic arrest at metaphase with aberrant mitotic cells reminiscent of such produced by the microtubule-stabilizing drug paclitaxel (taxol), including monopolar spindles, or complete lack of a mitotic spindle. Altered microtubule stability in cells lacking RASSF1A is likely to affect spindle assembly and chromosome attachment, processes that need to be carefully controlled to protect cells from genomic instability and transformation. In addition, knowledge of the microtubule-targeting function of RASSF1 may aid in the development of new anticancer drugs.
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