Defective cell cycle checkpoint function has been linked to enhanced sensitivity of tumor cells to certain genotoxic agents. To determine whether loss of the G1-S checkpoint function would sensitize tumor cells to microtubule inhibitor (MTI)-induced apoptosis, we examined the effect of the MTIs, Taxol and vincristine, on the cell cycle kinetics and survival of two isogenic cell lines, HCT116 p21+/+ and HCT116 p21-/-, which differ only at the p21 locus. p21-deficient cells displayed a dose-dependent, enhanced chemosensitivity to MTIs in both monolayer and soft agar assays as well as in mice xenograft tumors. The increased sensitivity of the p21-deficient cells to MTIs correlated with prolonged cyclin B1/Cdc2 activity and the occurrence of endoreduplication. Furthermore, sensitivity of p53-deficient cells to MTI-induced apoptosis was significantly reduced by induction of ectopic p21 protein. The results suggest that the status of G1-S checkpoint function in tumor cells may be an important determinant in the efficacy of MTIs used clinically.