Two domains of centrosomal protein CDK5RAP2, CNN1 and CNN2, link centrosomes to mitotic spindle poles. CNN1 lacking centrosomes are unable to recruit pericentriolar matrix components that mediate attachment to spindle poles.
The centrosomal protein, CDK5RAP2, is mutated in primary microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by reduced brain size. The Drosophila melanogaster homologue of CDK5RAP2, centrosomin (Cnn), maintains the pericentriolar matrix (PCM) around centrioles during mitosis. In this study, we demonstrate a similar role for CDK5RAP2 in vertebrate cells. By disrupting two evolutionarily conserved domains of CDK5RAP2, CNN1 and CNN2, in the avian B cell line DT40, we find that both domains are essential for linking centrosomes to mitotic spindle poles. Although structurally intact, centrosomes lacking the CNN1 domain fail to recruit specific PCM components that mediate attachment to spindle poles. Furthermore, we show that the CNN1 domain enforces cohesion between parental centrioles during interphase and promotes efficient DNA damage–induced G2 cell cycle arrest. Because mitotic spindle positioning, asymmetric centrosome inheritance, and DNA damage signaling have all been implicated in cell fate determination during neurogenesis, our findings provide novel insight into how impaired CDK5RAP2 function could cause premature depletion of neural stem cells and thereby microcephaly.