Aneuploidy, or the abnormal number of chromosomes, adversely effects cell growth, but it is also linked with cancer and tumorigenesis. Now Torres et al. (2010) help resolve this paradox by demonstrating that aneuploid yeast cells can evolve mutations in the proteasome protein degradation pathway that alleviate imbalances in protein production and increase the cell’s proliferative capacities.
In a recent issue of Cell, Ohta et al. (2010) report a method of quantitative proteomics coupled with bioinformatic analysis for the identification of associated components in complex mixtures. Using this approach, they assayed the protein composition of mitotic chromosomes, identifying 4029 associated proteins, 562 of which are previously uncharacterized.
In interphase and mitosis, centrosomes play a major role in the spatial organization of the microtubule network. Alterations in centrosome number and structure are associated with genomic instability and occur in many cancers. Centrosome duplication is controlled by centriole replication. In most dividing animal cells, centrioles duplicate only once per cell cycle at a site adjacent to existing centrioles. The conserved protein kinase Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4) has a key role in controlling centriole biogenesis. Overexpression of Plk4 drives centrosome amplification and is associated with tumorigenesis in flies. By contrast, haploinsufficiency of Plk4 promotes cytokinesis failure, leading to an increased incidence of tumors in mice. Recent studies have shown that Plk4 is a low abundance protein whose stability is linked to the activity of the enzyme. We discuss how this autoregulatory feedback loop acts to limit the damaging effects caused by too much or too little Plk4.
centrosome; centriole; polo-like kinase 4; Plk4; SAK; SCF; phosphodegron; β-TrCP; aneuploidy
The large Nuclear Mitotic Apparatus (NuMA) protein is an abundant component of interphase nuclei and an essential player in mitotic spindle assembly and maintenance. With its partner, cytoplasmic dynein, NuMA uses its cross-linking properties to tether microtubules to spindle poles. NuMA and its invertebrate homologues play a similar tethering role at the cell cortex, thereby mediating essential asymmetric divisions during development. Despite its maintenance as a nuclear component for decades after the final mitosis of many cell types (including neurons), an interphase role for NuMA remains to be established, although its structural properties implicate it as a component of a nuclear scaffold, perhaps as a central constituent of the proposed nuclear matrix.
A lesson from dominantly inherited forms of diverse neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinocerebellar ataxia and Huntington’s disease, is that the selective dysfunction or death of the neuronal population most at risk in each disease is not mediated solely by mutant derived damage within the target neurons. The disease-causing toxic process, which in each case is caused by mutation in a gene that is widely or ubiquitously expressed, involves mutant damage within the non-neuronal glial cells of the central nervous system - especially astrocytes and microglia. Disease mechanism is non-cell autonomous, with toxicity derived from glia as a prominent contributor to driving disease progression and in some instances even disease initiation.
The mitotic checkpoint plays an important role in preventing chromosome segregation errors and the production of aneuploid progeny. In this issue, Zhang et al. examine mice and cells lacking the deubiquitinating enzyme USP44. Surprisingly, they find that USP44 prevents chromosome segregation errors through a function independent of its previously identified role in the mitotic checkpoint. Usp44-null animals develop aneuploidy and experience increased rates of tumorigenesis, implicating USP44 as novel tumor suppressor.
In this issue, three groups (Hewitt et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.201002133; Maciejowski et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.201001050; Santaguida et al. 2010. J. Cell Biol. doi:10.1083/jcb.201001036) use chemical inhibitors to analyze the function of the mitotic checkpoint kinase Mps1. These studies demonstrate that Mps1 kinase activity ensures accurate chromosome segregation through its recruitment to kinetochores of mitotic checkpoint proteins, formation of interphase and mitotic inhibitors of Cdc20, and correction of faulty microtubule attachments.
Dominant mutation in two DNA/RNA binding proteins, TDP-43 and FUS/TLS, are causes of inherited Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). TDP-43 and FUS/TLS have striking structural and functional similarities, implicating alterations in RNA processing as central in ALS. TDP-43 has binding sites within a third of all mouse and human mRNAs in brain and this binding influences the levels and splicing patterns of at least 20% of those mRNAs. Disease modeling in rodents of the first known cause of inherited ALS – mutation in the ubiquitously expressed superoxide dismutase (SOD1) – has yielded non-cell autonomous fatal motor neuron disease caused by one or more toxic properties acquired by the mutant proteins. In contrast, initial disease modeling for TDP-43 and FUS/TLS has produced highly varied phenotypes. It remains unsettled whether TDP-43 and FUS/TLS mutants provoke disease from a loss of function or gain of toxicity or both. TDP-43 or FUS/TLS misaccumulation seems central not just to ALS (where it is found in almost all instances of disease), but more broadly in neurodegenerative disease, including frontal temporal lobular dementia (FTLD-U) and many examples of Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease. (182 words)
A growing body of evidence suggests that cell-to-cell spread of misfolded protein aggregates represents a mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases.
Protein misfolding is common to most neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent work using animal models with intracellular α-synuclein and tau inclusions adds decisively to a growing body of evidence that misfolded protein aggregates can induce a self-perpetuating process that leads to amplification and spreading of pathological protein assemblies. When coupled with the progressive nature of neurodegeneration, recognition of such cell-to-cell aggregate spread suggests a unifying mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of these disorders.
Misfolded proteins accumulating in several neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases) can cause aggregation of their native counterparts through a mechanism similar to the infectious prion protein’s induction of a pathogenic conformation onto its cellular isoform. Evidence for such a prion-like mechanism has now spread to the main misfolded proteins (SOD1 and TDP-43) implicated in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The major neurodegenerative diseases may therefore have mechanistic parallels that provide a molecular pathway for non-cell autonomous disease spread within the nervous system.
Microtubules of the mitotic spindle in mammalian somatic cells are focused at spindle poles, a process thought to include direct capture by astral microtubules of kinetochores and/or noncentrosomally nucleated microtubule bundles. By construction and analysis of a conditional loss of mitotic function allele of the nuclear mitotic apparatus (NuMA) protein in mice and cultured primary cells, we demonstrate that NuMA is an essential mitotic component with distinct contributions to the establishment and maintenance of focused spindle poles. When mitotic NuMA function is disrupted, centrosomes provide initial focusing activity, but continued centrosome attachment to spindle fibers under tension is defective, and the maintenance of focused kinetochore fibers at spindle poles throughout mitosis is prevented. Without centrosomes and NuMA, initial establishment of spindle microtubule focusing completely fails. Thus, NuMA is a defining feature of the mammalian spindle pole and functions as an essential tether linking bulk microtubules of the spindle to centrosomes.
Mutation in superoxide dismutase–1 (SOD1) causes the inherited degenerative neurological disease familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a non–cell-autonomous disease: mutant SOD1 synthesis in motor neurons and microglia drives disease onset and progression, respectively. In this issue of the JCI, Harraz and colleagues demonstrate that SOD1 mutants expressed in human cell lines directly stimulate NADPH oxidase (Nox) by binding to Rac1, resulting in overproduction of damaging ROS (see the related article beginning on page 659). Diminishing ROS by treatment with the microglial Nox inhibitor apocynin or by elimination of Nox extends survival in ALS mice, reviving the proposal that ROS mediate ALS pathogenesis, but with a new twist: it’s ROS produced by microglia.
Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4) plays an essential role in centriole duplication, but recent work led to the conclusion that Plk4 also directly regulates cytokinesis. The consequence of reduced Plk4 levels in human and mouse cells is studied. It is shown that Plk4 controls centriole duplication but does not directly regulate cytokinesis.
Centrioles organize the centrosome, and accurate control of their number is critical for the maintenance of genomic integrity. Centrioles duplicate once per cell cycle, and duplication is coordinated by Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4). We previously demonstrated that Plk4 accumulation is autoregulated by its own kinase activity. However, loss of heterozygosity of Plk4 in mouse embryonic fibroblasts has been proposed to cause cytokinesis failure as a primary event, leading to centrosome amplification and gross chromosomal abnormalities. Using targeted gene disruption, we show that human epithelial cells with one inactivated Plk4 allele undergo neither cytokinesis failure nor increase in centrosome amplification. Plk4 is shown to localize exclusively at the centrosome, with none in the spindle midbody. Substantial depletion of Plk4 by small interfering RNA leads to loss of centrioles and subsequent spindle defects that lead to a modest increase in the rate of cytokinesis failure. Therefore, Plk4 is a centriole-localized kinase that does not directly regulate cytokinesis.
Centromeres direct chromosomal inheritance by nucleating assembly of the kinetochore, a large multiprotein complex required for microtubule attachment during mitosis. Centromere identity in humans is epigenetically determined, with no DNA sequence either necessary or sufficient. A prime candidate for the epigenetic mark is assembly into centromeric chromatin of centromere protein A (CENP-A), a histone H3 variant found only at functional centromeres. A new covalent fluorescent pulse-chase labeling approach using SNAP tagging has now been developed and is used to demonstrate that CENP-A bound to a mature centromere is quantitatively and equally partitioned to sister centromeres generated during S phase, thereby remaining stably associated through multiple cell divisions. Loading of nascent CENP-A on the megabase domains of replicated centromere DNA is shown to require passage through mitosis but not microtubule attachment. Very surprisingly, assembly and stabilization of new CENP-A–containing nucleosomes is restricted exclusively to the subsequent G1 phase, demonstrating direct coupling between progression through mitosis and assembly/maturation of the next generation of centromeres.
The mitotic checkpoint is the major cell cycle control mechanism for maintaining chromosome content in multicellular organisms. Prevention of premature onset of anaphase requires activation at unattached kinetochores of the BubR1 kinase, which acts with other components to generate a diffusible “stop anaphase” inhibitor. Not only does direct binding of BubR1 to the centromere-associated kinesin family member CENP-E activate its essential kinase, binding of a motorless fragment of CENP-E is shown here to constitutively activate BubR1 bound at kinetochores, producing checkpoint signaling that is not silenced either by spindle microtubule capture or the tension developed at those kinetochores by other components. Using purified BubR1, microtubules, and CENP-E, microtubule capture by the CENP-E motor domain is shown to silence BubR1 kinase activity in a ternary complex of BubR1–CENP-E–microtubule. Together, this reveals that CENP-E is the signal transducing linker responsible for silencing BubR1-dependent mitotic checkpoint signaling through its capture at kinetochores of spindle microtubules.
Centromere-associated protein-E (CENP-E) is an essential mitotic kinesin that is required for efficient, stable microtubule capture at kinetochores. It also directly binds to BubR1, a kinetochore-associated kinase implicated in the mitotic checkpoint, the major cell cycle control pathway in which unattached kinetochores prevent anaphase onset. Here, we show that single unattached kinetochores depleted of CENP-E cannot block entry into anaphase, resulting in aneuploidy in 25% of divisions in primary mouse fibroblasts in vitro and in 95% of regenerating hepatocytes in vivo. Without CENP-E, diminished levels of BubR1 are recruited to kinetochores and BubR1 kinase activity remains at basal levels. CENP-E binds to and directly stimulates the kinase activity of purified BubR1 in vitro. Thus, CENP-E is required for enhancing recruitment of its binding partner BubR1 to each unattached kinetochore and for stimulating BubR1 kinase activity, implicating it as an essential amplifier of a basal mitotic checkpoint signal.
kinetochore; mitosis; cell cycle; LENP-E; BubR1
The key to understanding centromere identity is likely to lie in the chromatin containing the histone H3 variant, CENP-A. CENP-A is the prime candidate to carry the epigenetic information that specifies the chromosomal location of the centromere in nearly all eukaryotic species, raising questions fundamental to understanding chromosome inheritance: How is the epigenetic centromere mark propagated? What physical properties of CENP-A-containing complexes are important for epigenetically marking centromeres? What are the molecules that recognize centromeric chromatin and serve as the foundation for the mitotic kinetochore? We discuss recent advances from our research groups that have yielded substantial insight into these questions and present our current understanding of the centromere. Future work promises an understanding of the molecular processes that confer fidelity to genome transmission at cell division.
Centromeres direct chromosome inheritance, but in multicellular organisms their positions on chromosomes are primarily specified epigenetically rather than by a DNA sequence. The major candidate for the epigenetic mark is chromatin assembled with the histone H3 variant, CENP-A. Recent studies offer conflicting evidence for the structure of CENP-A containing chromatin, including the histone composition and handedness of the DNA wrapped around the histones. We present a model for the assembly and deposition of centromeric nucleosomes that couples these processes to the cell cycle. This model not only reconciles the divergent data for the CENP-A containing nucleosomes but also provides insights about how centromere identity is stably inherited.
Mutations in superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of motor neurons. With conformation specific antibodies, we now demonstrate that misfolded mutant SOD1 binds directly to the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC1), an integral membrane protein imbedded in the outer mitochondrial membrane. This interaction is found on isolated spinal cord mitochondria and can be reconstituted with purified components in vitro. ADP passage through the outer membrane is diminished in spinal mitochondria from mutant SOD1-expressing ALS rats. Direct binding of mutant SOD1 to VDAC1 inhibits conductance of individual channels when reconstituted in a lipid bilayer. Reduction of VDAC1 activity with targeted gene disruption is shown to diminish survival by accelerating onset of fatal paralysis in mice expressing the ALS-causing mutation SOD1G37R. Taken together, our results establish a direct link between misfolded mutant SOD1 and mitochondrial dysfunction in this form of inherited ALS.
The mitotic checkpoint guards against chromosome missegregation and the production of aneuploid daughter cells. Aneuploidy is a common characteristic of tumor cells and has been proposed for over a century to drive tumor progression. However, recent evidence has revealed that although aneuploidy can increase the potential for cellular transformation, it also acts to antagonize tumorigenesis in certain genetic contexts. A clearer understanding of the tumor suppressive function of aneuploidy may reveal new avenues for anticancer therapy.
Opposing roles of Aurora kinases and protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) during mitosis have long been suggested. Here we demonstrate that Aurora kinases A and B phosphorylate a single residue on the kinetochore motor CENP-E. PP1 binds CENP-E via a motif overlapping this phosphorylation site and binding is disrupted by Aurora phosphorylation. Phosphorylation of CENP-E by the Auroras is enriched at spindle poles, disrupting binding of PP1 and reducing CENP-E’s affinity for individual microtubules. This phosphorylation is required for CENP-E-mediated towing of initially polar chromosomes toward the cell center. Kinetochores on such chromosomes cannot make subsequent stable attachment to spindle microtubules when dephosphorylation of CENP-E or rebinding of PP1 to CENP-E is blocked. Thus, an Aurora/PP1 phosphorylation switch modulates CENP-E motor activity as an essential feature of chromosome congression from poles and localized PP1 delivery by CENP-E to the outer kinetochore is necessary for stable microtubule capture by those chromosomes.
Dominant mutations in superoxide dismutase cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an adult-onset neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of motor neurons. Using mice carrying a deletable mutant gene, diminished mutant expression in astrocytes did not affect onset, but delayed microglial activation and sharply slowed later disease progression. These findings demonstrate that mutant astrocytes are viable targets for therapies to slow progression of non-cell-autonomous killing of motor neurons in ALS.
Aneuploidy, an abnormal chromosome number, is a frequent characteristic of malignant cells, leading to the suggestion that aneuploidy drives tumorigenesis. In a recent issue of Science, Williams et al. demonstrated that chromosome gains in primary cells cause proliferative defects, which is paradoxical since chromosome gains frequently occur in human tumors.
In this issue of Cancer Cell, Gascoigne and Taylor report their findings of following 10,000 single cells incubated with three classes of anti-mitotic drugs, including paclitaxel. This extensive analysis reveals an unappreciated complexity in response to such drugs and demonstrates that it's more than genetics that determine life or death.