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1.  Functional Dissection of Caenorhabditis elegans CLK-2/TEL2 Cell Cycle Defects during Embryogenesis and Germline Development 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(4):e1000451.
CLK-2/TEL2 is essential for viability from yeasts to vertebrates, but its essential functions remain ill defined. CLK-2/TEL2 was initially implicated in telomere length regulation in budding yeast, but work in Caenorhabditis elegans has uncovered a function in DNA damage response signalling. Subsequently, DNA damage signalling defects associated with CLK-2/TEL2 have been confirmed in yeast and human cells. The CLK-2/TEL2 interaction with the ATM and ATR DNA damage sensor kinases and its requirement for their stability led to the proposal that CLK-2/TEL2 mutants might phenocopy ATM and/or ATR depletion. We use C. elegans to dissect developmental and cell cycle related roles of CLK-2. Temperature sensitive (ts) clk-2 mutants accumulate genomic instability and show a delay of embryonic cell cycle timing. This delay partially depends on the worm p53 homolog CEP-1 and is rescued by co-depletion of the DNA replication checkpoint proteins ATL-1 (C. elegans ATR) and CHK-1. In addition, clk-2 ts mutants show a spindle orientation defect in the eight cell stages that lead to major cell fate transitions. clk-2 deletion worms progress through embryogenesis and larval development by maternal rescue but become sterile and halt germ cell cycle progression. Unlike ATL-1 depleted germ cells, clk-2–null germ cells do not accumulate DNA double-strand breaks. Rather, clk-2 mutant germ cells arrest with duplicated centrosomes but without mitotic spindles in an early prophase like stage. This germ cell cycle arrest does not depend on cep-1, the DNA replication, or the spindle checkpoint. Our analysis shows that CLK-2 depletion does not phenocopy PIKK kinase depletion. Rather, we implicate CLK-2 in multiple developmental and cell cycle related processes and show that CLK-2 and ATR have antagonising functions during early C. elegans embryonic development.
Author Summary
PI3K-related protein kinases (PIKKs) ATM and ATR are essential upstream components of DNA damage signalling pathways, while TOR-1 acts as a nutrient sensor. CLK-2/TEL2 is a conserved gene initially implicated in budding yeast telomere length regulation and uncovered in the same genetic screen as the yeast TEL1 ATM like kinase. CLK-2/TEL2 was first implicated in DNA damage response signalling by C. elegans genetics, a function confirmed in yeast and human cells. In addition, CLK-2/TEL2 is essential for cellular and organismal survival from yeasts to vertebrates, but the essential phenotypes were not defined. A direct interaction between CLK-2/TEL2 and all PI3K-related protein kinases and the reduction of PIKK protein levels upon CLK-2/TEL2 depletion lead to the widely discussed notion that CLK-2/TEL2 mutants might phenocopy PIKK depletion phenotypes. We take advantage of embryonic lineage analysis and germline cytology to dissect developmental and cell cycle related functions of CLK-2. CLK-2 depletion does not phenocopy PIKK kinase depletion. We rather link CLK-2 to multiple developmental and cell cycle related processes and show that CLK-2 and ATR have antagonising functions during early C. elegans embryonic development. Furthermore, we implicate CLK-2 in a distinct cell lineage decision and show that its depletion leads to a novel germline cell cycle arrest phenotype.
PMCID: PMC2660272  PMID: 19360121
2.  Checkpoints couple transcription network oscillator dynamics to cell-cycle progression 
Genome Biology  2014;15(9):446.
The coupling of cyclin dependent kinases (CDKs) to an intrinsically oscillating network of transcription factors has been proposed to control progression through the cell cycle in budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The transcription network regulates the temporal expression of many genes, including cyclins, and drives cell-cycle progression, in part, by generating successive waves of distinct CDK activities that trigger the ordered program of cell-cycle events. Network oscillations continue autonomously in mutant cells arrested by depletion of CDK activities, suggesting the oscillator can be uncoupled from cell-cycle progression. It is not clear what mechanisms, if any, ensure that the network oscillator is restrained when progression in normal cells is delayed or arrested. A recent proposal suggests CDK acts as a master regulator of cell-cycle processes that have the potential for autonomous oscillatory behavior.
Here we find that mitotic CDK is not sufficient for fully inhibiting transcript oscillations in arrested cells. We do find that activation of the DNA replication and spindle assembly checkpoints can fully arrest the network oscillator via overlapping but distinct mechanisms. Further, we demonstrate that the DNA replication checkpoint effector protein, Rad53, acts to arrest a portion of transcript oscillations in addition to its role in halting cell-cycle progression.
Our findings indicate that checkpoint mechanisms, likely via phosphorylation of network transcription factors, maintain coupling of the network oscillator to progression during cell-cycle arrest.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0446-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4180952  PMID: 25200947
3.  Targeted interactomics reveals a complex core cell cycle machinery in Arabidopsis thaliana 
A protein interactome focused towards cell proliferation was mapped comprising 857 interactions among 393 proteins, leading to many new insights in plant cell cycle regulation.A comprehensive view on heterodimeric cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)/cyclin complexes in plants is obtained, in relation with their regulators.Over 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted.
The basic underlying mechanisms that govern the cell cycle are conserved among all eukaryotes. Peculiar for plants, however, is that their genome contains a collection of cell cycle regulatory genes that is intriguingly large (Vandepoele et al, 2002; Menges et al, 2005) compared to other eukaryotes. Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) encodes 71 genes in five regulatory classes versus only 15 in yeast and 23 in human.
Despite the discovery of numerous cell cycle genes, little is known about the protein complex machinery that steers plant cell division. Therefore, we applied tandem affinity purification (TAP) approach coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) on Arabidopsis cell suspension cultures to isolate and analyze protein complexes involved in the cell cycle. This approach allowed us to successfully map a first draft of the basic cell cycle complex machinery of Arabidopsis, providing many new insights into plant cell division.
To map the interactome, we relied on a streamlined platform comprising generic Gateway-based vectors with high cloning flexibility, the fast generation of transgenic suspension cultures, TAP adapted for plant cells, and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) tandem-MS for the identification of purified proteins (Van Leene et al, 2007, 2008Van Leene et al, 2007, 2008). Complexes for 102 cell cycle proteins were analyzed using this approach, leading to a non-redundant data set of 857 interactions among 393 proteins (Figure 1A). Two subspaces were identified in this data set, domain I1, containing interactions confirmed in at least two independent experimental repeats or in the reciprocal purification experiment, and domain I2 consisting of uniquely observed interactions.
Several observations underlined the quality of both domains. All tested reverse purifications found the original interaction, and 150 known or predicted interactions were confirmed, meaning that also a huge stack of new interactions was revealed. An in-depth computational analysis revealed enrichment for many cell cycle-related features among the proteins of the network (Figure 1B), and many protein pairs were coregulated at the transcriptional level (Figure 1C). Through integration of known cell cycle-related features, more than 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted (Figure 1D). Besides common qualities of both interactome domains, their real significance appeared through mutual differences exposing two subspaces in the cell cycle interactome: a central regulatory network of stable complexes that are repeatedly isolated and represent core regulatory units, and a peripheral network comprising transient interactions identified less frequently, which are involved in other aspects of the process, such as crosstalk between core complexes or connections with other pathways. To evaluate the biological relevance of the cell cycle interactome in plants, we validated interactions from both domains by a transient split-luciferase assay in Arabidopsis plants (Marion et al, 2008), further sustaining the hypothesis-generating power of the data set to understand plant growth.
With respect to insights into the cell cycle physiology, the interactome was subdivided according to the functional classes of the baits and core protein complexes were extracted, covering cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)/cyclin core complexes together with their positive and negative regulation networks, DNA replication complexes, the anaphase-promoting complex, and spindle checkpoint complexes. The data imply that mitotic A- and B-type cyclins exclusively form heterodimeric complexes with the plant-specific B-type CDKs and not with CDKA;1, whereas D-type cyclins seem to associate with CDKA;1. Besides the extraction of complexes previously shown in other organisms, our data also suggested many new functional links; for example, the link coupling cell division with the regulation of transcript splicing. The association of negative regulators of CDK/cyclin complexes with transcription factors suggests that their role in reallocation is not solely targeted to CDK/cyclin complexes. New members of the Siamese-related inhibitory proteins were identified, and for the first time potential inhibitors of plant-specific mitotic B-type CDKs have been found in plants. New evidence that the E2F–DP–RBR network is not only active at G1-to-S, but also at the G2-to-M transition is provided and many complexes involved in DNA replication or repair were isolated. For the first time, a plant APC has been isolated biochemically, identifying three potential new plant-specific APC interactors, and finally, complexes involved in the spindle checkpoint were isolated mapping many new but specific interactions.
Finally, to get a general view on the complex machinery, modules of interacting cyclins and core cell cycle regulators were ranked along the cell cycle phases according to the transcript expression peak of the cyclins, showing an assorted set of CDK–cyclin complexes with high regulatory differentiation (Figure 4). Even within the same subfamily (e.g. cyclin A3, B1, B2, D3, and D4), cyclins differ not only in their functional time frame but also in the type and number of CDKs, inhibitors, and scaffolding proteins they bind, further indicating their functional diversification. According to our interaction data, at least 92 different variants of CDK–cyclin complexes are found in Arabidopsis.
In conclusion, these results reflect how several rounds of gene duplication (Sterck et al, 2007) led to the evolution of a large set of cyclin paralogs and a myriad of regulators, resulting in a significant jump in the complexity of the cell cycle machinery that could accommodate unique plant-specific features such as an indeterminate mode of postembryonic development. Through their extensive regulation and connection with a myriad of up- and downstream pathways, the core cell cycle complexes might offer the plant a flexible toolkit to fine-tune cell proliferation in response to an ever-changing environment.
Cell proliferation is the main driving force for plant growth. Although genome sequence analysis revealed a high number of cell cycle genes in plants, little is known about the molecular complexes steering cell division. In a targeted proteomics approach, we mapped the core complex machinery at the heart of the Arabidopsis thaliana cell cycle control. Besides a central regulatory network of core complexes, we distinguished a peripheral network that links the core machinery to up- and downstream pathways. Over 100 new candidate cell cycle proteins were predicted and an in-depth biological interpretation demonstrated the hypothesis-generating power of the interaction data. The data set provided a comprehensive view on heterodimeric cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)–cyclin complexes in plants. For the first time, inhibitory proteins of plant-specific B-type CDKs were discovered and the anaphase-promoting complex was characterized and extended. Important conclusions were that mitotic A- and B-type cyclins form complexes with the plant-specific B-type CDKs and not with CDKA;1, and that D-type cyclins and S-phase-specific A-type cyclins seem to be associated exclusively with CDKA;1. Furthermore, we could show that plants have evolved a combinatorial toolkit consisting of at least 92 different CDK–cyclin complex variants, which strongly underscores the functional diversification among the large family of cyclins and reflects the pivotal role of cell cycle regulation in the developmental plasticity of plants.
PMCID: PMC2950081  PMID: 20706207
Arabidopsis thaliana; cell cycle; interactome; protein complex; protein interactions
4.  The Role of the RACK1 Ortholog Cpc2p in Modulating Pheromone-Induced Cell Cycle Arrest in Fission Yeast 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e65927.
The detection and amplification of extracellular signals requires the involvement of multiple protein components. In mammalian cells the receptor of activated C kinase (RACK1) is an important scaffolding protein for signal transduction networks. Further, it also performs a critical function in regulating the cell cycle by modulating the G1/S transition. Many eukaryotic cells express RACK1 orthologs, with one example being Cpc2p in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. In contrast to RACK1, Cpc2p has been described to positively regulate, at the ribosomal level, cells entry into M phase. In addition, Cpc2p controls the stress response pathways through an interaction with Msa2p, and sexual development by modulating Ran1p/Pat1p. Here we describe investigations into the role, which Cpc2p performs in controlling the G protein-mediated mating response pathway. Despite structural similarity to Gβ-like subunits, Cpc2p appears not to function at the G protein level. However, upon pheromone stimulation, cells overexpressing Cpc2p display substantial cell morphology defects, disorientation of septum formation and a significantly protracted G1 arrest. Cpc2p has the potential to function at multiple positions within the pheromone response pathway. We provide a mechanistic interpretation of this novel data by linking Cpc2p function, during the mating response, with its previous described interactions with Ran1p/Pat1p. We suggest that overexpressing Cpc2p prolongs the stimulated state of pheromone-induced cells by increasing ste11 gene expression. These data indicate that Cpc2p regulates the pheromone-induced cell cycle arrest in fission yeast by delaying cells entry into S phase.
PMCID: PMC3701009  PMID: 23843946
5.  The Function of a Spindle Checkpoint Gene bub-1 in C. elegans Development 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5912.
The serine/threonine kinase BUB1 (Budding Uninhibited by Benzimidazole 1) was originally identified in yeast as a checkpoint protein, based on its mutant's incapacity of delaying the cell cycle in response to loss of microtubules. Our understanding of its function is primarily from studies carried out in yeast S. cerevisiae. It has been shown that it is a component of the mitotic spindle checkpoint and regulates the separation of sister chromatids through its downstream molecules. However, its roles in multi-cellular organisms remain unclear.
Methods and Findings
In nematode C. elegans, rapid cell divisions primarily occur in embryos and in germline of postembryonic larvae and adults. In addition, a select set of cells undergo a few rounds of cell division postembryonically. One common phenotype associated with impaired cell division is described as Stu (Sterile and Uncoordinated) [1], [2]. We conducted a genetic screen for zygotic mutants that displayed Stu phenotype in C. elegans. We isolated seven Stu mutants that fell into five complementation groups. We report here that two mutations, FanWang5 (fw5) and FanWang8 (fw8) affect the bub-1 gene, a homolog of yeast BUB1. Both mutant alleles of fw5 and fw8 exhibited variable behavioral defects, including developmental arrest, uncoordination and sterility. The number of postembryonically born neurons in the ventral cord decreased and their axon morphology was abnormal. Also, the decrease of neurons in the ventral cord phenotype could not be suppressed by a caspase-3 loss-of-function mutant. In addition, bub-1(fw5 and fw8) mutants showed widespread effects on postembryonic development in many cell lineages. We found that bub-1 functioned maternally in several developmental lineages at the embryonic stage in C. elegans. Studies in yeast have shown that BUB1 functions as a spindle checkpoint protein by regulating the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C). We performed double mutant analysis and observed that bub-1 genetically interacted with several downstream genes, including fzy-1/CDC20, mat-2/APC1 and emb-27/APC6.
Our results demonstrate a conserved role of bub-1 in cell-cycle regulation and reveal that C. elegans bub-1 is required both maternally and zygotically. Further, our genetic analysis is consistent with that the function of bub-1 in C. elegans is likely similar to its yeast and mammalian homologs.
PMCID: PMC2691579  PMID: 19526056
6.  CDC5 Inhibits the Hyperphosphorylation of the Checkpoint Kinase Rad53, Leading to Checkpoint Adaptation 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(1):e1000286.
The mechanistic role of the yeast kinase CDC5, in allowing cells to adapt to the presence of irreparable DNA damage and continue to divide, is revealed.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae polo-like kinase Cdc5 promotes adaptation to the DNA damage checkpoint, in addition to its numerous roles in mitotic progression. The process of adaptation occurs when cells are presented with persistent or irreparable DNA damage and escape the cell-cycle arrest imposed by the DNA damage checkpoint. However, the precise mechanism of adaptation remains unknown. We report here that CDC5 is dose-dependent for adaptation and that its overexpression promotes faster adaptation, indicating that high levels of Cdc5 modulate the ability of the checkpoint to inhibit the downstream cell-cycle machinery. To pinpoint the step in the checkpoint pathway at which Cdc5 acts, we overexpressed CDC5 from the GAL1 promoter in damaged cells and examined key steps in checkpoint activation individually. Cdc5 overproduction appeared to have little effect on the early steps leading to Rad53 activation. The checkpoint sensors, Ddc1 (a member of the 9-1-1 complex) and Ddc2 (a member of the Ddc2/Mec1 complex), properly localized to damage sites. Mec1 appeared to be active, since the Rad9 adaptor retained its Mec1 phosphorylation. Moreover, the damage-induced interaction between phosphorylated Rad9 and Rad53 remained intact. In contrast, Rad53 hyperphosphorylation was significantly reduced, consistent with the observation that cell-cycle arrest is lost during adaptation. Thus, we conclude Cdc5 acts to attenuate the DNA damage checkpoint through loss of Rad53 hyperphosphorylation to allow cells to adapt to DNA damage. Polo-like kinase homologs have been shown to inhibit the ability of Claspin to facilitate the activation of downstream checkpoint kinases, suggesting that this function is conserved in vertebrates.
Author Summary
Cellular surveillance mechanisms, termed checkpoints, have evolved to recognize the presence of DNA damage, halt cell division, and promote repair. The purpose of these checkpoints is to prevent the next generation of cells from inheriting a damaged genome. However, after futile attempts at repair over several hours of growth arrest, yeast cells eventually adapt and continue with cell division despite the presence of persistent DNA lesions. This process of adaptation employs CDC5, a kinase that also has essential roles in promoting cell division in the absence of DNA damage. We found that increasing levels of Cdc5 promote adaptation by suppressing the hyperphosphorylation of the checkpoint kinase Rad53, which in turn suppresses the DNA damage checkpoint and relieves cell division arrest. Intriguingly, overexpression of PLK1, the human homolog of CDC5, has been reported in various tumor types and has been linked to poor prognosis. Therefore, understanding the mechanism of adaptation in yeast may provide valuable insight into the role of PLK1 overexpression in tumor progression. Two related papers, published in PLoS Biology (van Vugt et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000287) and PLoS Genetics (Donnianni et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000763), similarly investigate the phenomenon of checkpoint adaptation.
PMCID: PMC2811153  PMID: 20126259
7.  DNA Damage Response Checkpoint Activation Drives KP1019 Dependent Pre-Anaphase Cell Cycle Delay in S. cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0138085.
Careful regulation of the cell cycle is required for proper replication, cell division, and DNA repair. DNA damage–including that induced by many anticancer drugs–results in cell cycle delay or arrest, which can allow time for repair of DNA lesions. Although its molecular mechanism of action remains a matter of debate, the anticancer ruthenium complex KP1019 has been shown to bind DNA in biophysical assays and to damage DNA of colorectal and ovarian cancer cells in vitro. KP1019 has also been shown to induce mutations and induce cell cycle arrest in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, suggesting that budding yeast can serve as an appropriate model for characterizing the cellular response to the drug. Here we use a transcriptomic approach to verify that KP1019 induces the DNA damage response (DDR) and find that KP1019 dependent expression of HUG1 requires the Dun1 checkpoint; both consistent with KP1019 DDR in budding yeast. We observe a robust KP1019 dependent delay in cell cycle progression as measured by increase in large budded cells, 2C DNA content, and accumulation of Pds1 which functions to inhibit anaphase. Importantly, we also find that deletion of RAD9, a gene required for the DDR, blocks drug-dependent changes in cell cycle progression, thereby establishing a causal link between the DDR and phenotypes induced by KP1019. Interestingly, yeast treated with KP1019 not only delay in G2/M, but also exhibit abnormal nuclear position, wherein the nucleus spans the bud neck. This morphology correlates with short, misaligned spindles and is dependent on the dynein heavy chain gene DYN1. We find that KP1019 creates an environment where cells respond to DNA damage through nuclear (transcriptional changes) and cytoplasmic (motor protein activity) events.
PMCID: PMC4572706  PMID: 26375390
8.  DNA Damage Activates the SAC in an ATM/ATR-Dependent Manner, Independently of the Kinetochore 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(2):e1000015.
The DNA damage checkpoint and the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) are two important regulatory mechanisms that respond to different lesions. The DNA damage checkpoint detects DNA damage, initiates protein kinase cascades, and inhibits the cell cycle. The SAC relies on kinetochore-dependent assembly of protein complexes to inhibit mitosis when chromosomes are detached from the spindle. The two checkpoints are thought to function independently. Here we show that yeast cells lacking the DNA damage checkpoint arrest prior to anaphase in response to low doses of the DNA damaging agent methyl methane sulfonate (MMS). The arrest requires the SAC proteins Mad1, Mad2, Mad3, Bub1, and Bub3 and works through Cdc20 and Pds1 but unlike the normal SAC, does not require a functional kinetochore. Mec1 (ATR) and Tel1 (ATM) are also required, independently of Chk1 and Rad53, suggesting that Mec1 and Tel1 inhibit anaphase in response to DNA damage by utilizing SAC proteins. Our results demonstrate cross-talk between the two checkpoints and suggest that assembling inhibitory complexes of SAC proteins at unattached kinetochores is not obligatory for their inhibitory activity. Furthermore, our results suggest that there are novel, important targets of ATM and ATR for cell cycle regulation.
Author Summary
Genome integrity is assured, in part, by regulatory systems called “checkpoints” that assure that cells do not improperly progress through the cell cycle. The DNA damage checkpoint assesses the status of DNA replication and inhibits cell cycle progression when the cell makes mistakes in DNA replication or when the cell has been assaulted by a DNA damaging agent from the environment. The checkpoint allows the cell time to repair the DNA and then permits the cell cycle to resume. There is a separate “spindle checkpoint” that monitors whether chromosomes are properly attached to the spindle and if so, allows cells to proceed through mitosis. The DNA damage checkpoint and the spindle checkpoint assure that daughter cells receive the correct number of chromosomes that are identical in DNA sequence. Here we show that the two checkpoints are not independent but that they cooperate to restrict mitotic progression in the face of DNA damage. We show that the spindle checkpoint can be induced by DNA damage and that there is a novel kinetochore independent mechanism to activate the spindle checkpoint proteins. In addition, we implicate the ATM and ATR kinases as kinetochore-independent activators of the spindle checkpoint.
PMCID: PMC2265443  PMID: 18454191
9.  Inactivation of the cyclin-dependent kinase Cdc28 abrogates cell cycle arrest induced by DNA damage and disassembly of mitotic spindles in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(5):2723-2734.
Eukaryotic cells may halt cell cycle progression following exposure to certain exogenous agents that damage cellular structures such as DNA or microtubules. This phenomenon has been attributed to functions of cellular control mechanisms termed checkpoints. Studies with the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and mammalian cells have led to the conclusion that cell cycle arrest in response to inhibition of DNA replication or DNA damage is a result of down-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). Based on these studies, it has been proposed that inhibition of the CDK activity may constitute a general mechanism for checkpoint controls. Observations made with the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, however, appear to disagree with this model. It has been shown that high levels of mitotic CDK activity are present in the budding yeast cells arrested in G2/mitosis as the result of DNA damage or replication inhibition. In this report, we show that a novel mutant allele of the CDC28 gene, encoding the budding yeast CDK, allowed cell cycle passage through mitosis and nuclear division in the presence of DNA damage and the microtubule toxin nocodazole at a restrictive temperature. Unlike the checkpoint-defective mutations in CDKs of fission yeast and mammalian cells, the cdc28 mutation that we identified was recessive and resulted in a loss of the CDK activity, including the Clb2-, Clb5-, and Clb6-associated, but not the Clb3-associated, CDK activities. Examination of several known alleles of cdc28 revealed that they were also, albeit partially, defective in cell cycle arrest in response to UV-generated DNA damage. These findings suggest that Cdc28 kinase in budding yeast may be required for cell cycle arrest resulting from DNA damage and disassembly of mitotic spindles.
PMCID: PMC232123  PMID: 9111343
10.  Phosphorylation of HOX11/TLX1 on Threonine-247 during mitosis modulates expression of cyclin B1 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:246.
The HOX11/TLX1 (hereafter referred to as HOX11) homeobox gene was originally identified at a t(10;14)(q24;q11) translocation breakpoint, a chromosomal abnormality observed in 5-7% of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemias (T-ALLs). We previously reported a predisposition to aberrant spindle assembly checkpoint arrest and heightened incidences of chromosome missegregation in HOX11-overexpressing B lymphocytes following exposure to spindle poisons. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate cell cycle specific expression of HOX11.
Cell cycle specific expression studies revealed a phosphorylated form of HOX11 detectable only in the mitotic fraction of cells after treatment with inhibitors to arrest cells at different stages of the cell cycle. Mutational analyses revealed phosphorylation on threonine-247 (Thr247), a conserved amino acid that defines the HOX11 gene family and is integral for the association with DNA binding elements. The effect of HOX11 phosphorylation on its ability to modulate expression of the downstream target, cyclin B1, was tested. A HOX11 mutant in which Thr247 was substituted with glutamic acid (HOX11 T247E), thereby mimicking a constitutively phosphorylated HOX11 isoform, was unable to bind the cyclin B1 promoter or enhance levels of the cyclin B1 protein. Expression of the wildtype HOX11 was associated with accelerated progression through the G2/M phase of the cell cycle, impaired synchronization in prometaphase and reduced apoptosis whereas expression of the HOX11 T247E mutant restored cell cycle kinetics, the spindle checkpoint and apoptosis.
Our results demonstrate that the transcriptional activity of HOX11 is regulated by phosphorylation of Thr247 in a cell cycle-specific manner and that this phosphorylation modulates the expression of the target gene, cyclin B1. Since it is likely that Thr247 phosphorylation regulates DNA binding activity to multiple HOX11 target sequences, it is conceivable that phosphorylation functions to regulate the expression of HOX11 target genes involved in the control of the mitotic spindle checkpoint.
PMCID: PMC2949800  PMID: 20846384
11.  Cell Size Checkpoint Control by the Retinoblastoma Tumor Suppressor Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2006;2(10):e167.
Size control is essential for all proliferating cells, and is thought to be regulated by checkpoints that couple cell size to cell cycle progression. The aberrant cell-size phenotypes caused by mutations in the retinoblastoma (RB) tumor suppressor pathway are consistent with a role in size checkpoint control, but indirect effects on size caused by altered cell cycle kinetics are difficult to rule out. The multiple fission cell cycle of the unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii uncouples growth from division, allowing direct assessment of the relationship between size phenotypes and checkpoint function. Mutations in the C. reinhardtii RB homolog encoded by MAT3 cause supernumerous cell divisions and small cells, suggesting a role for MAT3 in size control. We identified suppressors of an mat3 null allele that had recessive mutations in DP1 or dominant mutations in E2F1, loci encoding homologs of a heterodimeric transcription factor that is targeted by RB-related proteins. Significantly, we determined that the dp1 and e2f1 phenotypes were caused by defects in size checkpoint control and were not due to a lengthened cell cycle. Despite their cell division defects, mat3, dp1, and e2f1 mutants showed almost no changes in periodic transcription of genes induced during S phase and mitosis, many of which are conserved targets of the RB pathway. Conversely, we found that regulation of cell size was unaffected when S phase and mitotic transcription were inhibited. Our data provide direct evidence that the RB pathway mediates cell size checkpoint control and suggest that such control is not directly coupled to the magnitude of periodic cell cycle transcription.
All cell types have a characteristic size, but the means by which cell size is determined remain mysterious. In proliferating cells, control mechanisms termed checkpoints are thought to prevent cells from dividing until they have reached a minimum size, but the nature of size checkpoints has proved difficult to dissect. The unicellular alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii divides via an unusual mechanism that uncouples growth from division, and thereby allows a direct assessment of how different genetic pathways contribute to size control. The retinoblastoma (RB) tumor suppressor pathway is a critical regulator of cell cycle control in plants and animals and is thought to act as a transcriptional switch for cell cycle genes, but it had not been directly implicated in cell size checkpoint function. The authors found that mutations in genes that encode key proteins of the RB pathway in Chlamydomonas affect cell size and cell cycle control by altering size checkpoint function. Unexpectedly, the predicted transcriptional targets of the RB pathway were not affected by the mutations, and blocking transcription did not alter cell size control. These data link the RB tumor suppressor pathway directly to size control and suggest the possibility that cell size and cell cycle control by the RB pathway may not be coupled to its transcriptional output.
PMCID: PMC1599770  PMID: 17040130
12.  Mutations in RAD27 define a potential link between G1 cyclins and DNA replication. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1995;15(8):4291-4302.
The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has three G1 cyclin (CLN) genes with overlapping functions. To analyze the functions of the various CLN genes, we examined mutations that result in lethality in conjunction with loss of cln1 and cln2. We have isolated alleles of RAD27/ERC11/YKL510, the yeast homolog of the gene encoding flap endonuclease 1, FEN-1.cln1 cln2 rad27/erc11 cells arrest in S phase; this cell cycle arrest is suppressed by the expression of CLN1 or CLN2 but not by that of CLN3 or the hyperactive CLN3-2. rad27/erc11 mutants are also defective in DNA damage repair, as determined by their increased sensitivity to a DNA-damaging agent, increased mitotic recombination rates, and increased spontaneous mutation rates. Unlike the block in cell cycle progression, these phenotypes are not suppressed by CLN1 or CLN2. CLN1 and CLN2 may activate an RAD27/ERC11-independent pathway specific for DNA synthesis that CLN3 is incapable of activating. Alternatively, CLN1 and CLN2 may be capable of overriding a checkpoint response which otherwise causes cln1 cln2 rad27/erc11 cells to arrest. These results imply that CLN1 and CLN2 have a role in the regulation of DNA replication. Consistent with this, GAL-CLN1 expression in checkpoint-deficient, mec1-1 mutant cells results in both cell death and increased chromosome loss among survivors, suggesting that CLN1 overexpression either activates defective DNA replication or leads to insensitivity to DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC230668  PMID: 7623823
13.  Heterologous expression of the human cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1 in the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe reveals a role for PCNA in the chk1+ cell cycle checkpoint pathway. 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1996;7(4):651-662.
Fission yeast cells expressing the human gene encoding the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor protein p21Cip1 were severely compromised for cell cycle progress. The degree of cell cycle inhibition was related to the level of p21Cip1 expression. Inhibited cells had a 2C DNA content and were judged by cytology and pulsed field gel electrophoresis to be in the G2 phase of the cell cycle. p21Cip1 accumulated in the nucleus and was associated with p34cdc2 and PCNA. Thus, p21Cip1 interacts with the same targets in fission yeast as in mammalian cells. Elimination of p34cdc2 binding by mutation within the cyclin-dependent kinase binding domain of p21Cip1 exaggerated the cell cycle delay phenotype. By contrast, elimination of PCNA binding by mutation within the PCNA-binding domain completely abolished the cell cycle inhibitory effects. Yeast cells expressing wild-type p21Cip1 and the mutant form that is unable to bind p34cdc2 showed enhanced sensitivity to UV. Cell cycle inhibition by p21Cip1 was largely abolished by deletion of the chk1+ gene that monitors radiation damage and was considerably enhanced in cells deleted for the rad3+ gene that monitors both DNA damage and the completion of DNA synthesis. Overexpression of PCNA also resulted in cell cycle arrest in G2 and this phenotype was also abolished by deletion of chk1+ and enhanced in cells deleted for rad3+. These results formally establish a link between PCNA and the products of the rad3+ and chk1+ checkpoint genes.
PMCID: PMC275915  PMID: 8730105
14.  Bub1p Kinase Activates the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Spindle Assembly Checkpoint 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(5):2738-2747.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae BUB1 encodes a protein kinase required for spindle assembly checkpoint function. In the presence of spindle damage, BUB1 is required to prevent cell cycle progression into anaphase. We have identified a dominantly acting BUB1 allele that appears to activate the spindle assembly checkpoint pathway in cells with undamaged spindles. High-level expression of BUB1-5 did not cause detectable spindle damage, yet it delayed yeast cells in mitosis at a stage following bipolar spindle assembly but prior to anaphase spindle elongation. Delayed cells possessed a G2 DNA content and elevated Clb2p mitotic cyclin levels. Unlike cells delayed in mitosis by spindle damage or MPS1 kinase overexpression, hyperphosphorylated forms of the Mad1p checkpoint protein did not accumulate. Similar to cells overexpressing MPS1, the BUB1-5 delay was dependent upon the functions of the other checkpoint genes, including BUB2 and BUB3 and MAD1, MAD2, and MAD3. We found that the mitotic delay caused by BUB1-5 or MPS1 overexpression was interdependent upon the function of the other. This suggests that the Bub1p and Mps1p kinases act together at an early step in generating the spindle damage signal.
PMCID: PMC110653  PMID: 9566893
15.  Transcriptome profiling of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants lacking C2H2 zinc finger proteins 
BMC Genomics  2008;9(Suppl 1):S14.
The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a eukaryotic organism with extensive genetic redundancy. Large-scale gene deletion analysis has shown that over 80% of the ~6200 predicted genes are nonessential and that the functions of 30% of all ORFs remain unclassified, implying that yeast cells can tolerate deletion of a substantial number of individual genes. For example, a class of zinc finger proteins containing C2H2 zinc fingers in tandem arrays of two or three is predicted to be transcription factors; however, seven of the thirty-one predicted genes of this class are nonessential, and their functions are poorly understood. In this study we completed a transcriptomic profiling of three mutants lacking C2H2 zinc finger proteins, ypr013cΔ,ypr015cΔ and ypr013cΔypr015cΔ.
Gene expression patterns were remarkably different between wild type and the mutants. The results indicate altered expression of 79 genes in ypr013cΔ, 185 genes in ypr015cΔ and 426 genes in the double mutant when compared with that of the wild type strain. More than 80% of the alterations in the double mutants were not observed in either one of the single deletion mutants. Functional categorization based on Munich Information Center for Protein Sequences (MIPS) revealed up-regulation of genes related to transcription and down-regulation of genes involving cell rescue and defense, suggesting a decreased response to stress conditions. Genes related to cell cycle and DNA processing whose expression was affected by single or double deletions were also identified.
Our results suggest that microarray analysis can define the biological roles of zinc finger proteins with unknown functions and identify target genes that are regulated by these putative transcriptional factors. These findings also suggest that both YPR013C and YPR015C have biological processes in common, in addition to their own regulatory pathways.
PMCID: PMC2386056  PMID: 18366603
16.  Spindle checkpoint proteins and chromosome–microtubule attachment in budding yeast 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;164(4):535-546.
Accurate chromosome segregation depends on precise regulation of mitosis by the spindle checkpoint. This checkpoint monitors the status of kinetochore–microtubule attachment and delays the metaphase to anaphase transition until all kinetochores have formed stable bipolar connections to the mitotic spindle. Components of the spindle checkpoint include the mitotic arrest defective (MAD) genes MAD1–3, and the budding uninhibited by benzimidazole (BUB) genes BUB1 and BUB3. In animal cells, all known spindle checkpoint proteins are recruited to kinetochores during normal mitoses. In contrast, we show that whereas Saccharomyces cerevisiae Bub1p and Bub3p are bound to kinetochores early in mitosis as part of the normal cell cycle, Mad1p and Mad2p are kinetochore bound only in the presence of spindle damage or kinetochore lesions that interfere with chromosome–microtubule attachment. Moreover, although Mad1p and Mad2p perform essential mitotic functions during every division cycle in mammalian cells, they are required in budding yeast only when mitosis goes awry. We propose that differences in the behavior of spindle checkpoint proteins in animal cells and budding yeast result primarily from evolutionary divergence in spindle assembly pathways.
PMCID: PMC2171994  PMID: 14769859
chromosome segregation; kinetochores; mitotic spindle apparatus; mitosis; metaphase
17.  Overexpression of the STE4 gene leads to mating response in haploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1990;10(1):217-222.
The STE4 gene of Saccharomyces cerevisiae encodes the beta subunit of the yeast pheromone receptor-coupled G protein. Overexpression of the STE4 protein led to cell cycle arrest of haploid cells. This arrest was like the arrest mediated by mating pheromones in that it led to similar morphological changes in the arrested cells. The arrest occurred in haploid cells of either mating type but not in MATa/MAT alpha diploids, and it was suppressed by defects in genes such as STE12 that are needed for pheromone response. Overexpression of the STE4 gene product also suppressed the sterility of cells defective in the mating pheromone receptors encoded by the STE2 and STE3 genes. Cell cycle arrest mediated by STE4 overexpression was prevented in cells that either were overexpressing the SCG1 gene product (the alpha subunit of the G protein) or lacked the STE18 gene product (the gamma subunit of the G protein). This finding suggests that in yeast cells, the beta subunit is the limiting component of the active beta gamma element and that a proper balance in the levels of the G-protein subunits is critical to a normal mating pheromone response.
PMCID: PMC360729  PMID: 2104659
18.  Elevated Levels of the Polo Kinase Cdc5 Override the Mec1/ATR Checkpoint in Budding Yeast by Acting at Different Steps of the Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(1):e1000763.
Checkpoints are surveillance mechanisms that constitute a barrier to oncogenesis by preserving genome integrity. Loss of checkpoint function is an early event in tumorigenesis. Polo kinases (Plks) are fundamental regulators of cell cycle progression in all eukaryotes and are frequently overexpressed in tumors. Through their polo box domain, Plks target multiple substrates previously phosphorylated by CDKs and MAPKs. In response to DNA damage, Plks are temporally inhibited in order to maintain the checkpoint-dependent cell cycle block while their activity is required to silence the checkpoint response and resume cell cycle progression. Here, we report that, in budding yeast, overproduction of the Cdc5 polo kinase overrides the checkpoint signaling induced by double strand DNA breaks (DSBs), preventing the phosphorylation of several Mec1/ATR targets, including Ddc2/ATRIP, the checkpoint mediator Rad9, and the transducer kinase Rad53/CHK2. We also show that high levels of Cdc5 slow down DSB processing in a Rad9-dependent manner, but do not prevent the binding of checkpoint factors to a single DSB. Finally, we provide evidence that Sae2, the functional ortholog of human CtIP, which regulates DSB processing and inhibits checkpoint signaling, is regulated by Cdc5. We propose that Cdc5 interferes with the checkpoint response to DSBs acting at multiple levels in the signal transduction pathway and at an early step required to resect DSB ends.
Author Summary
Double strand DNA breaks (DSBs) are dangerous chromosomal lesions that can lead to genome rearrangements, genetic instability, and cancer if not accurately repaired. Eukaryotes activate a surveillance mechanism, called DNA damage checkpoint, to arrest cell cycle progression and facilitate DNA repair. Several factors are physically recruited to DSBs, and specific kinases phosphorylate multiple targets leading to checkpoint activation. Budding yeast is a good model system to study checkpoint, and most of the factors involved in the DSBs response were originally characterized in this organism. Using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we explored the functional role of polo kinase Cdc5 in regulating the DSB–induced checkpoint. Polo kinases have been previously involved in checkpoint inactivation in all the eukaryotes, and they are frequently overexpressed in cancer cells. We found that elevated levels of Cdc5 affect the cellular response to a DSB at different steps, altering DNA processing and overriding the signal triggered by checkpoint kinases. Our findings suggest that Cdc5 likely regulates multiple factors in response to a DSB and provide a rationale for a proteome-wide screening to identify targets of polo kinases in yeast and human cells. Such information may have a practical application to design specific molecular tools for cancer therapy. Two related papers published in PLoS Biology—by Vidanes et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000286, and van Vugt et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000287—similarly investigate the phenomenon of checkpoint adaptation/overriding.
PMCID: PMC2797610  PMID: 20098491
19.  Yeast Mating and Image-Based Quantification of Spatial Pattern Formation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2014;10(6):e1003690.
Communication between cells is a ubiquitous feature of cell populations and is frequently realized by secretion and detection of signaling molecules. Direct visualization of the resulting complex gradients between secreting and receiving cells is often impossible due to the small size of diffusing molecules and because such visualization requires experimental perturbations such as attachment of fluorescent markers, which can change diffusion properties. We designed a method to estimate such extracellular concentration profiles in vivo by using spatiotemporal mathematical models derived from microscopic analysis. This method is applied to populations of thousands of haploid yeast cells during mating in order to quantify the extracellular distributions of the pheromone α-factor and the activity of the aspartyl protease Bar1. We demonstrate that Bar1 limits the range of the extracellular pheromone signal and is critical in establishing α-factor concentration gradients, which is crucial for effective mating. Moreover, haploid populations of wild type yeast cells, but not BAR1 deletion strains, create a pheromone pattern in which cells differentially grow and mate, with low pheromone regions where cells continue to bud and regions with higher pheromone levels and gradients where cells conjugate to form diploids. However, this effect seems to be exclusive to high-density cultures. Our results show a new role of Bar1 protease regulating the pheromone distribution within larger populations and not only locally inside an ascus or among few cells. As a consequence, wild type populations have not only higher mating efficiency, but also higher growth rates than mixed MAT a bar1Δ/MAT α cultures. We provide an explanation of how a rapidly diffusing molecule can be exploited by cells to provide spatial information that divides the population into different transcriptional programs and phenotypes.
Author Summary
Haploid budding yeast cells cannot actively move to find a mating partner, like some flagellated bacteria do. Instead they must grow a so-called shmoo – a mating projection – precisely into the direction of a potential partner. They communicate with each other by releasing pheromones into their environment, which are sensed by cells of the opposite mating type. This serves the localization of nearby cells and initiates growth arrest and mating. Paradoxically, yeast cells also secrete the protease Bar1 that destroys pheromones. To visualize the resulting pheromone distribution and understand the effect on mating efficiency, we combined fluorescence imaging and mathematical modeling. We observed that the controlled destruction of pheromones by the yeast cells is beneficial to communication since it causes relatively higher pheromone concentrations in areas where cells are dense and vanishing pheromone concentrations elsewhere. This allows the population to maintain two different cellular behaviors at the same time, i.e. mating and continued growth, a behavior which disappears when we genetically delete the gene for the pheromone-destroying protein.
PMCID: PMC4072512  PMID: 24967739
20.  Fission Yeast Cells Undergo Nuclear Division in the Absence of Spindle Microtubules 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(10):e1000512.
Through a previously undescribed mechanism, fission yeast cells can undergo nuclear division and enter the next cell cycle, even in the absence of spindle microtubules.
Mitosis in eukaryotic cells employs spindle microtubules to drive accurate chromosome segregation at cell division. Cells lacking spindle microtubules arrest in mitosis due to a spindle checkpoint that delays mitotic progression until all chromosomes have achieved stable bipolar attachment to spindle microtubules. In fission yeast, mitosis occurs within an intact nuclear membrane with the mitotic spindle elongating between the spindle pole bodies. We show here that in fission yeast interference with mitotic spindle formation delays mitosis only briefly and cells proceed to an unusual nuclear division process we term nuclear fission, during which cells perform some chromosome segregation and efficiently enter S-phase of the next cell cycle. Nuclear fission is blocked if spindle pole body maturation or sister chromatid separation cannot take place or if actin polymerization is inhibited. We suggest that this process exhibits vestiges of a primitive nuclear division process independent of spindle microtubules, possibly reflecting an evolutionary intermediate state between bacterial and Archeal chromosome segregation where the nucleoid divides without a spindle and a microtubule spindle-based eukaryotic mitosis.
Author Summary
The process of cell division, mitosis, ensures that chromosomes are accurately segregated to generate two daughter cells, each with a complete genome. Eukaryotic cells use a microtubule-based mitotic spindle to ensure proper chromosome segregation. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, mitosis is “closed”: that is, the nuclear envelope does not break down, and the mitotic spindle forms within the nucleus. Unexpectedly we have found that in certain circumstances division of the fission yeast nucleus and progression into the next cell cycle can take place without the mitotic spindle. We call this nuclear division process “nuclear fission” because the nucleus separates into two bodies. We show that nuclear fission requires filamentous actin and functional spindle pole bodies, which are the fission yeast equivalent of the centrosome in other organisms. We also show that nuclear fission requires sister chromatid separation and is accompanied by some level of chromosome segregation. We propose that nuclear fission is a vestige of a primitive nuclear division process and might reflect an evolutionary intermediate between the mechanism of chromosome segregation that takes place in bacteria and the microtubule-based mitosis of modern eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2953530  PMID: 20967237
21.  The Human RNA Polymerase II-Associated Factor 1 (hPaf1): A New Regulator of Cell-Cycle Progression 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7077.
The human PAF (hPAF) complex is part of the RNA polymerase II transcription apparatus and regulates multiple steps in gene expression. Further, the yeast homolog of hPaf1 has a role in regulating the expression of a subset of genes involved in the cell-cycle. We therefore investigated the role of hPaf1 during progression of the cell-cycle.
Herein, we report that the expression of hPaf1, a subunit of the hPAF complex, increases with cell-cycle progression and is regulated in a cell-cycle dependant manner. hPaf1 specifically regulates a subclass of genes directly implicated in cell-cycle progression during G1/S, S/G2, and G2/M. In prophase, hPaf1 aligns in filament-like structures, whereas in metaphase it is present within the pole forming a crown-like structure, surrounding the centrosomes. Moreover, hPaf1 is degraded during the metaphase to anaphase transition. In the nucleus, hPaf1 regulates the expression of cyclins A1, A2, D1, E1, B1, and Cdk1. In addition, expression of hPaf1 delays DNA replication but favors the G2/M transition, in part through microtubule assembly and mitotic spindle formation.
Our results identify hPaf1 and the hPAF complex as key regulators of cell-cycle progression. Mutation or loss of stoichiometry of at least one of the members may potentially lead to cancer development.
PMCID: PMC2740866  PMID: 19771162
22.  Novel Response to Microtubule Perturbation in Meiosis†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(11):4767-4781.
During the mitotic cell cycle, microtubule depolymerization leads to a cell cycle arrest in metaphase, due to activation of the spindle checkpoint. Here, we show that under microtubule-destabilizing conditions, such as low temperature or the presence of the spindle-depolymerizing drug benomyl, meiotic budding yeast cells arrest in G1 or G2, instead of metaphase. Cells arrest in G1 if microtubule perturbation occurs as they enter the meiotic cell cycle and in G2 if cells are already undergoing premeiotic S phase. Concomitantly, cells down-regulate genes required for cell cycle progression, meiotic differentiation, and spore formation in a highly coordinated manner. Decreased expression of these genes is likely to be responsible for halting both cell cycle progression and meiotic development. Our results point towards the existence of a novel surveillance mechanism of microtubule integrity that may be particularly important during specialized cell cycles when coordination of cell cycle progression with a developmental program is necessary.
PMCID: PMC1140642  PMID: 15899877
23.  A model of yeast cell-cycle regulation based on multisite phosphorylation 
Multisite phosphorylation of CDK target proteins provides the requisite nonlinearity for cell cycle modeling using elementary reaction mechanisms.Stochastic simulations, based on Gillespie's algorithm and using realistic numbers of protein and mRNA molecules, compare favorably with single-cell measurements in budding yeast.The role of transcription–translation coupling is critical in the robust operation of protein regulatory networks in yeast cells.
Progression through the eukaryotic cell cycle is governed by the activation and inactivation of a family of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) and auxiliary proteins that regulate CDK activities (Morgan, 2007). The many components of this protein regulatory network are interconnected by positive and negative feedback loops that create bistable switches and transient pulses (Tyson and Novak, 2008). The network must ensure that cell-cycle events proceed in the correct order, that cell division is balanced with respect to cell growth, and that any problems encountered (in replicating the genome or partitioning chromosomes to daughter cells) are corrected before the cell proceeds to the next phase of the cycle. The network must operate robustly in the context of unavoidable molecular fluctuations in a yeast-sized cell. With a volume of only 5×10−14 l, a yeast cell contains one copy of the gene for each component of the network, a handful of mRNA transcripts of each gene, and a few hundreds to thousands of protein molecules carrying out each gene's function. How large are the molecular fluctuations implied by these numbers, and what effects do they have on the functioning of the cell-cycle control system?
To answer these questions, we have built a new model (Figure 1) of the CDK regulatory network in budding yeast, based on the fact that the targets of CDK activity are typically phosphorylated on multiple sites. The activity of each target protein depends on how many sites are phosphorylated. The target proteins feedback on CDK activity by controlling cyclin synthesis (SBF's role) and degradation (Cdh1's role) and by releasing a CDK-counteracting phosphatase (Cdc14). Every reaction in Figure 1 can be described by a mass-action rate law, with an accompanying rate constant that must be estimated from experimental data. As the transcription and translation of mRNA molecules have major effects on fluctuating numbers of protein molecules (Pedraza and Paulsson, 2008), we have included mRNA transcripts for each protein in the model.
To create a deterministic model, the rate laws are combined, according to standard principles of chemical kinetics, into a set of 60 differential equations that govern the temporal dynamics of the control system. In the stochastic version of the model, the rate law for each reaction determines the probability per unit time that a particular reaction occurs, and we use Gillespie's stochastic simulation algorithm (Gillespie, 1976) to compute possible temporal sequences of reaction events. Accurate stochastic simulations require knowledge of the expected numbers of mRNA and protein molecules in a single yeast cell. Fortunately, these numbers are available from several sources (Ghaemmaghami et al, 2003; Zenklusen et al, 2008). Although the experimental estimates are not always in good agreement with each other, they are sufficiently reliable to populate a stochastic model with realistic numbers of molecules.
By simulating thousands of cells (as in Figure 5), we can build up representative samples for computing the mean and s.d. of any measurable cell-cycle property (e.g. interdivision time, size at division, duration of G1 phase). The excellent fit of simulated statistics to observations of cell-cycle variability is documented in the main text and Supplementary Information.
Of particular interest to us are observations of Di Talia et al (2007) of the timing of a crucial G1 event (export of Whi5 protein from the nucleus) in a population of budding yeast cells growing at a specific growth rate α=ln2/(mass-doubling time). Whi5 export is a consequence of Whi5 phosphorylation, and it occurs simultaneously with the release (activation) of SBF (see Figure 1). Using fluorescently labeled Whi5, Di Talia et al could easily measure (in individual yeast cells) the time, T1, from cell birth to the abrupt loss of Whi5 from the nucleus. Correlating T1 to the size of the cell at birth, Vbirth, they found that, for a sample of daughter cells, αT1 versus ln(Vbirth) could be fit with two straight lines of slope −0.7 and −0.3. Our simulation of this experiment (Figure 7 of the main text) compares favorably with Figure 3d and e in Di Talia et al (2007).
The major sources of noise in our model (and in protein regulatory networks in yeast cells, in general) are related to gene transcription and the small number of unique mRNA transcripts. As each mRNA molecule may instruct the synthesis of dozens of protein molecules, the coefficient of variation of molecular fluctuations at the protein level (CVP) may be dominated by fluctuations at the mRNA level, as expressed in the formula (Pedraza and Paulsson, 2008) where NM, NP denote the number of mRNA and protein molecules, respectively, and ρ=τM/τP is the ratio of half-lives of mRNA and protein molecules. For a yeast cell, typical values of NM and NP are 8 and 800, respectively (Ghaemmaghami et al, 2003; Zenklusen et al, 2008). If ρ=1, then CVP≈25%. Such large fluctuations in protein levels are inconsistent with the observed variability of size and age at division in yeast cells, as shown in the simplified cell-cycle model of Kar et al (2009) and as we have confirmed with our more realistic model. The size of these fluctuations can be reduced to a more acceptable level by assuming a shorter half-life for mRNA (say, ρ=0.1).
There must be some mechanisms whereby yeast cells lessen the protein fluctuations implied by transcription–translation coupling. Following Pedraza and Paulsson (2008), we suggest that mRNA gestation and senescence may resolve this problem. Equation (3) is based on a simple, one-stage, birth–death model of mRNA turnover. In Supplementary Appendix 1, we show that a model of mRNA processing, with 10 stages each of mRNA gestation and senescence, gives reasonable fluctuations at the protein level (CVP≈5%), even if the effective half-life of mRNA is 10 min. A one-stage model with τM=1 min gives comparable fluctuations (CVP≈5%). In the main text, we use a simple birth–death model of mRNA turnover with an ‘effective' half-life of 1 min, in order to limit the computational complexity of the full cell-cycle model.
In order for the cell's genome to be passed intact from one generation to the next, the events of the cell cycle (DNA replication, mitosis, cell division) must be executed in the correct order, despite the considerable molecular noise inherent in any protein-based regulatory system residing in the small confines of a eukaryotic cell. To assess the effects of molecular fluctuations on cell-cycle progression in budding yeast cells, we have constructed a new model of the regulation of Cln- and Clb-dependent kinases, based on multisite phosphorylation of their target proteins and on positive and negative feedback loops involving the kinases themselves. To account for the significant role of noise in the transcription and translation steps of gene expression, the model includes mRNAs as well as proteins. The model equations are simulated deterministically and stochastically to reveal the bistable switching behavior on which proper cell-cycle progression depends and to show that this behavior is robust to the level of molecular noise expected in yeast-sized cells (∼50 fL volume). The model gives a quantitatively accurate account of the variability observed in the G1-S transition in budding yeast, which is governed by an underlying sizer+timer control system.
PMCID: PMC2947364  PMID: 20739927
bistability; cell-cycle variability; size control; stochastic model; transcription–translation coupling
24.  Mutations in Drosophila Greatwall/Scant Reveal Its Roles in Mitosis and Meiosis and Interdependence with Polo Kinase 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(11):e200.
Polo is a conserved kinase that coordinates many events of mitosis and meiosis, but how it is regulated remains unclear. Drosophila females having only one wild-type allele of the polo kinase gene and the dominant Scant mutation produce embryos in which one of the centrosomes detaches from the nuclear envelope in late prophase. We show that Scant creates a hyperactive form of Greatwall (Gwl) with altered specificity in vitro, another protein kinase recently implicated in mitotic entry in Drosophila and Xenopus. Excess Gwl activity in embryos causes developmental failure that can be rescued by increasing maternal Polo dosage, indicating that coordination between the two mitotic kinases is crucial for mitotic progression. Revertant alleles of Scant that restore fertility to polo–Scant heterozygous females are recessive alleles or deficiencies of gwl; they show chromatin condensation defects and anaphase bridges in larval neuroblasts. One recessive mutant allele specifically disrupts a Gwl isoform strongly expressed during vitellogenesis. Females hemizygous for this allele are sterile, and their oocytes fail to arrest in metaphase I of meiosis; both homologues and sister chromatids separate on elongated meiotic spindles with little or no segregation. This allelic series of gwl mutants highlights the multiple roles of Gwl in both mitotic and meiotic progression. Our results indicate that Gwl activity antagonizes Polo and thus identify an important regulatory interaction of the cell cycle.
Author Summary
Coordination of cell division in development requires a complex interplay between protein kinases, which catalyze the transfer of phosphates to specific substrate proteins to modify their activities. One of these kinases is the conserved Polo, which is the target of anticancer drugs. Using genetics in Drosophila (the fruit fly), we have identified Greatwall, another conserved protein kinase, as an antagonist of Polo. Studies of Scant, a dominant mutation of the greatwall gene, lead us to examine the effects of overexpressing wild-type Greatwall. Too much Greatwall activity relative to Polo leads to developmental defects in early syncytial embryos, which are initiated by the detachment of a single centrosome from the nuclear envelope in prophase. Loss-of-function mutants of greatwall reveal that the kinase is required for proper chromosome structure and segregation in mitosis and meiosis. One of these mutations results in the loss of Greatwall specifically during vitellogenesis (building up the egg's contents) and leads to a failure of meiosis I characterized by the premature loss of sister chromatid cohesion. This study shows that the Greatwall kinase fulfils multiple crucial functions in the different cell cycles of a developing animal and will be the foundation for further investigations.
PMCID: PMC2065886  PMID: 17997611
25.  Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Hog1 Mediates Adaptation to G1 Checkpoint Arrest during Arsenite and Hyperosmotic Stress▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2008;7(8):1309-1317.
Cells slow down cell cycle progression in order to adapt to unfavorable stress conditions. Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) responds to osmotic stress by triggering G1 and G2 checkpoint delays that are dependent on the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) Hog1. The high-osmolarity glycerol (HOG) pathway is also activated by arsenite, and the hog1Δ mutant is highly sensitive to arsenite, partly due to increased arsenite influx into hog1Δ cells. Yeast cell cycle regulation in response to arsenite and the role of Hog1 in this process have not yet been analyzed. Here, we found that long-term exposure to arsenite led to transient G1 and G2 delays in wild-type cells, whereas cells that lack the HOG1 gene or are defective in Hog1 kinase activity displayed persistent G1 cell cycle arrest. Elevated levels of intracellular arsenite and “cross talk” between the HOG and pheromone response pathways, observed in arsenite-treated hog1Δ cells, prolonged the G1 delay but did not cause a persistent G1 arrest. In contrast, deletion of the SIC1 gene encoding a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor fully suppressed the observed block of G1 exit in hog1Δ cells. Moreover, the Sic1 protein was stabilized in arsenite-treated hog1Δ cells. Interestingly, Sic1-dependent persistent G1 arrest was also observed in hog1Δ cells during hyperosmotic stress. Taken together, our data point to an important role of the Hog1 kinase in adaptation to stress-induced G1 cell cycle arrest.
PMCID: PMC2519783  PMID: 18552285

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