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2.  The CENP-A N-Tail Confers Epigenetic Stability to Centromeres via the CENP-T Branch of the CCAN in Fission Yeast 
Current biology : CB  2015;25(3):348-356.
In most eukaryotes, centromeres are defined epigenetically by presence of the histone H3 variant CENP-A [1-3]. CENP-A containing chromatin recruits the constitutive centromere-associated network (CCAN) of proteins, which in turn directs assembly of the outer kinetochore to form microtubule attachments and ensure chromosome segregation fidelity [4-6]. While the mechanisms that load CENP-A at centromeres are being elucidated, the functions of its divergent N-terminal tail remain enigmatic [7-12]. Here, we employ the well-studied fission yeast centromere [13-16] to investigate the function of the CENP-A (Cnp1) N-tail. We show that alteration of the N-tail did not affect Cnp1 loading at centromeres, outer kinetochore formation, or spindle checkpoint signaling, but nevertheless elevated chromosome loss. N-Tail mutants exhibited synthetic lethality with an altered centromeric DNA sequence, with rare survivors harboring chromosomal fusions in which the altered centromere was epigenetically inactivated. Elevated centromere inactivation was also observed for N-tail mutants with unaltered centromeric DNA sequences. N-tail mutants specifically reduced localization of the CCAN proteins Cnp20/CENP-T and Mis6/CENP-I, but not Cnp3/CENP-C. Overexpression of Cnp20/CENP-T suppressed defects in an N-tail mutant, suggesting a link between reduced CENP-T recruitment and the observed centromere inactivation phenotype. Thus, the Cnp1 N-tail promotes epigenetic stability of centromeres in fission yeast, at least in part via recruitment of the CENP-T branch of the CCAN.
PMCID: PMC4318777  PMID: 25619765
centromere; CENP-A; CenH3; histone variant; kinetochore; CENP-T; CCAN; mitosis; chromosome segregation; aneuploidy
3.  Kinetochore-localized BUB-1/BUB-3 complex promotes anaphase onset in C. elegans 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2015;209(4):507-517.
In early C. elegans embryos, the kinetochore-localized BUB- 1/BUB-3 complex promotes anaphase onset independently of its roles in spindle checkpoint signaling and chromosome alignment.
The conserved Bub1/Bub3 complex is recruited to the kinetochore region of mitotic chromosomes, where it initiates spindle checkpoint signaling and promotes chromosome alignment. Here we show that, in contrast to the expectation for a checkpoint pathway component, the BUB-1/BUB-3 complex promotes timely anaphase onset in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. This activity of BUB-1/BUB-3 was independent of spindle checkpoint signaling but required kinetochore localization. BUB-1/BUB-3 inhibition equivalently delayed separase activation and other events occurring during mitotic exit. The anaphase promotion function required BUB-1’s kinase domain, but not its kinase activity, and this function was independent of the role of BUB-1/BUB-3 in chromosome alignment. These results reveal an unexpected role for the BUB-1/BUB-3 complex in promoting anaphase onset that is distinct from its well-studied functions in checkpoint signaling and chromosome alignment, and suggest a new mechanism contributing to the coordination of the metaphase-to-anaphase transition.
PMCID: PMC4442812  PMID: 25987605
Neuro-Oncology  2014;16(Suppl 5):v62.
Clinical efficacy of EGFR inhibitors (EGFRi) in glioblastoma patients has been limited by a multitude of resistance mechanisms. We hypothesized that these mechanisms emerge upstream of the interface between EGFR signaling and fundamental cellular processes, such as DNA damage response (DDR), without altering this interface. Thus, synthetic lethal interactions targeting this interface should persist despite acquired resistance to EGFRi. To test this hypothesis, we performed an RNAi screen to identify DDR genes required for viability in glioblastoma cells dependent on EGFR signaling (through expression of the oncogenic EGFRvIII) and identified polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1). In synchronous and asynchronous populations, EGFRvIII expressing glioblastomas harbored increased levels of the p-Thr210 PLK1 (an activated form of PLK1). Moreover, EGFRvIII expression was associated with elevated PLK1 expression in the TCGA glioblastoma dataset (p = 0.044). PLK1 Inhibition (by BI2536) induced an increase in the proportion of cells that co-stained for p-Histone H3 and γH2AX foci, suggesting accumulation of mitotic DNA damage. This effect was exacerbated by EGFRvIII expression, implicating induction of mitotic DNA damage as a major contributor to the observed synthetic lethality. Using time-lapsed imaging, we showed that EGFRvIII expression induced the formation of aberrant mitosis as well as prolonged mitotic progression. Further supporting an essential role for PLK1 in suppressing DNA damage accumulation, BI2536 treatment significantly enhanced the in vitro and in vivo tumoricidal effects of the DNA damaging chemotherapy, temozolomide. Moreover, PLK1 inhibition suppressed the accumulation of pS14 Rad51 (an active form of Rad51 that is required for homologous recombination (HR)) as well as overall HR efficiency in the DR-GFP assay. The tumoricidal and TMZ effects of PLK1 inhibition were observed across a panel of eight independent EGFRvIII glioblastoma clones that had acquired distinct resistance mechanisms to EGFRi. These results suggest therapeutic opportunities in targeting the interface between oncogenic signaling and DDR.
PMCID: PMC4218028
5.  NOCA-1 functions with γ-tubulin and in parallel to Patronin to assemble non-centrosomal microtubule arrays in C. elegans 
eLife  null;4:e08649.
Non-centrosomal microtubule arrays assemble in differentiated tissues to perform mechanical and transport-based functions. In this study, we identify Caenorhabditis elegans NOCA-1 as a protein with homology to vertebrate ninein. NOCA-1 contributes to the assembly of non-centrosomal microtubule arrays in multiple tissues. In the larval epidermis, NOCA-1 functions redundantly with the minus end protection factor Patronin/PTRN-1 to assemble a circumferential microtubule array essential for worm growth and morphogenesis. Controlled degradation of a γ-tubulin complex subunit in this tissue revealed that γ-tubulin acts with NOCA-1 in parallel to Patronin/PTRN-1. In the germline, NOCA-1 and γ-tubulin co-localize at the cell surface, and inhibiting either leads to a microtubule assembly defect. γ-tubulin targets independently of NOCA-1, but NOCA-1 targeting requires γ-tubulin when a non-essential putatively palmitoylated cysteine is mutated. These results show that NOCA-1 acts with γ-tubulin to assemble non-centrosomal arrays in multiple tissues and highlight functional overlap between the ninein and Patronin protein families.
eLife digest
Microtubules are hollow, rigid filaments that are found in the cells of animals and other eukaryotes. These filaments are built from smaller building blocks called tubulin heterodimers; and in dividing animal cells, they mainly emerge from structures called centrosomes. When a cell is dividing, arrays of microtubules that originate from centrosomes help assemble the spindle-like structure that segregates the chromosomes.
Many non-dividing or specialized cells—including neurons, skin cells and muscle fibers—assemble other arrays of microtubules that do not emerge from centrosomes, but nevertheless perform a variety of structural, mechanical and transport-based roles. Compared to the centrosomal arrays, much less is known about how these non-centrosomal microtubules are assembled.
A vertebrate protein called ‘ninein’ had previously been shown to be involved in anchoring microtubules at centrosomes. Ninein can change its localization from centrosomes to the cell surface in mammalian skin cells, suggesting that it might also have a role in assembling the peripheral microtubule arrays that are found in these cells. Now, Wang et al. have identified a protein from worms called NOCA-1, which contains a region similar to the part of ninein that was previously shown to be needed to anchor microtubules at centrosomes.
The experiments show that NOCA-1 guides the assembly of non-centrosomal microtubule arrays in multiple tissues in C. elegans worms. This includes in the outer layer of the worm's larvae, which is similar to mammalian skin. The results also highlight that NOCA-1 performs many of the same roles as a member of the Patronin family of proteins called PTRN-1, which interacts with the ‘minus’ end of a microtubule to prevent the microtubule from breaking apart.
Wang et al. also found that NOCA-1 works with another protein called γ-tubulin, which helps new microtubules to form and also interacts with microtubule minus ends. In contrast, PTRN-1 works independently of γ-tubulin. This suggests that NOCA-1 works together with γ-tubulin to protect new microtubule ends or promote their assembly, a role similar to what has been proposed for Patronin family proteins. Overall, Wang et al.'s results highlight the importance of ninein-related proteins in the assembly of non-centrosomal microtubule arrays and suggest overlapping roles for the ninein and Patronin families of proteins.
PMCID: PMC4608005  PMID: 26371552
non-centrosomal microtubule array; NOCA-1; ninein; Patronin; PTRN-1; C. elegans
6.  Preventing farnesylation of the dynein adaptor Spindly contributes to the mitotic defects caused by farnesyltransferase inhibitors 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2015;26(10):1845-1856.
The kinetochore-specific dynein adaptor Spindly is identified as a novel substrate of farnesyltransferase in human cells. Farnesylation is required for Spindly accumulation at kinetochores, and nonfarnesylated Spindly delays chromosome congression, providing new mechanistic insight into the biological effect of farnesyltransferase inhibitors.
The clinical interest in farnesyltransferase inhibitors (FTIs) makes it important to understand how these compounds affect cellular processes involving farnesylated proteins. Mitotic abnormalities observed after treatment with FTIs have so far been attributed to defects in the farnesylation of the outer kinetochore proteins CENP-E and CENP-F, which are involved in chromosome congression and spindle assembly checkpoint signaling. Here we identify the cytoplasmic dynein adaptor Spindly as an additional component of the outer kinetochore that is modified by farnesyltransferase (FTase). We show that farnesylation of Spindly is essential for its localization, and thus for the proper localization of dynein and its cofactor dynactin, to prometaphase kinetochores and that Spindly kinetochore recruitment is more severely affected by FTase inhibition than kinetochore recruitment of CENP-E and CENP-F. Molecular replacement experiments show that both Spindly and CENP-E farnesylation are required for efficient chromosome congression. The identification of Spindly as a new mitotic substrate of FTase provides insight into the causes of the mitotic phenotypes observed with FTase inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4436830  PMID: 25808490
7.  PCNA and Msh2-Msh6 Activate an Mlh1-Pms1 Endonuclease Pathway Required for Exo1-independent Mismatch Repair 
Molecular cell  2014;55(2):291-304.
Genetic evidence has implicated multiple pathways in eukaryotic DNA mismatch repair (MMR) downstream of mispair recognition and Mlh1-Pms1 recruitment, including Exonuclease 1 (Exo1) dependent and independent pathways. We identified 14 mutations in POL30, which encodes PCNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, specific to Exo1-independent MMR. The mutations identified affected amino acids at three distinct sites on the PCNA structure. Multiple mutant PCNA proteins had defects either in trimerization and Msh2-Msh6 binding or in activation of the Mlh1-Pms1 endonuclease that initiates excision during MMR. The latter class of mutations led to hyper-accumulation of repair intermediate Mlh1-Pms1 foci and were enhanced by an msh6 mutation that disrupted the Msh2-Msh6 interaction with PCNA. These results reveal a central role for PCNA in the Exo1-independent MMR pathway and suggest that Msh2-Msh6 localizes PCNA to repair sites after mispair recognition to activate the Mlh1-Pms1 endonuclease for initiating Exo1-dependent repair or for driving progressive excision in Exo1-independent repair.
PMCID: PMC4113420  PMID: 24981171
8.  Orthogonal targeting of EGFRvIII expressing glioblastomas through simultaneous EGFR and PLK1 inhibition 
Oncotarget  2015;6(14):11751-11767.
We identified a synthetic lethality between PLK1 silencing and the expression of an oncogenic Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor, EGFRvIII. PLK1 promoted homologous recombination (HR), mitigating EGFRvIII induced oncogenic stress resulting from DNA damage accumulation. Accordingly, PLK1 inhibition enhanced the cytotoxic effects of the DNA damaging agent, temozolomide (TMZ). This effect was significantly more pronounced in an Ink4a/Arf(−/−) EGFRvIII glioblastoma model relative to an Ink4a/Arf(−/−) PDGF-β model. The tumoricidal and TMZ-sensitizing effects of BI2536 were uniformly observed across Ink4a/Arf(−/−) EGFRvIII glioblastoma clones that acquired independent resistance mechanisms to EGFR inhibitors, suggesting these resistant clones retain oncogenic stress that required PLK1 compensation. Although BI2536 significantly augmented the anti-neoplastic effect of EGFR inhibitors in the Ink4a/Arf(−/−) EGFRvIII model, durable response was not achieved until TMZ was added. Our results suggest that optimal therapeutic effect against glioblastomas requires a “multi-orthogonal” combination tailored to the molecular physiology associated with the target cancer genome.
PMCID: PMC4494902  PMID: 26059434
EGFR; EGFRvIII; glioblastoma; synthetic lethality
9.  A two-step mechanism for epigenetic specification of centromere identity and function 
Nature cell biology  2013;15(9):1056-1066.
The basic determinant of chromosome inheritance, the centromere, is specified in many eukaryotes by an epigenetic mark. Using gene targeting in human cells and fission yeast, chromatin containing the centromere-specific histone H3 variant CENP-A is demonstrated to be the epigenetic mark that acts through a two-step mechanism to identify, maintain and propagate centromere function indefinitely. Initially, centromere position is replicated and maintained by chromatin assembled with the centromere-targeting domain (CATD) of CENP-A substituted into H3. Subsequently, nucleation of kinetochore assembly onto CATD-containing chromatin is shown to require either CENP-A’s amino- or carboxy-terminal tails for recruitment of inner kinetochore proteins, including stabilizing CENP-B binding to human centromeres or direct recruitment of CENP-C, respectively.
PMCID: PMC4418506  PMID: 23873148
10.  Separase Cleaves the N-Tail of the CENP-A Related Protein CPAR-1 at the Meiosis I Metaphase-Anaphase Transition in C. elegans 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0125382.
Centromeres are defined epigenetically in the majority of eukaryotes by the presence of chromatin containing the centromeric histone H3 variant CENP-A. Most species have a single gene encoding a centromeric histone variant whereas C. elegans has two: HCP-3 (also known as CeCENP-A) and CPAR-1. Prior RNAi replacement experiments showed that HCP-3 is the functionally dominant isoform, consistent with CPAR-1 not being detectable in embryos. GFP::CPAR-1 is loaded onto meiotic chromosomes in diakinesis and is enriched on bivalents until meiosis I. Here we show that GFP::CPAR-1 signal loss from chromosomes precisely coincides with homolog segregation during anaphase I. This loss of GFP::CPAR-1 signal reflects proteolytic cleavage between GFP and the histone fold of CPAR-1, as CPAR-1::GFP, in which GFP is fused to the C-terminus of CPAR-1, does not exhibit any loss of GFP signal. A focused candidate screen implicated separase, the protease that initiates anaphase by cleaving the kleisin subunit of cohesin, in this cleavage reaction. Examination of the N-terminal tail sequence of CPAR-1 revealed a putative separase cleavage site and mutation of the signature residues in this site eliminated the cleavage reaction, as visualized by retention of GFP::CPAR-1 signal on separating homologous chromosomes at the metaphase-anaphase transition of meiosis I. Neither cleaved nor uncleavable CPAR-1 were centromere-localized in mitosis and instead localized throughout chromatin, indicating that centromere activity has not been retained in CPAR-1. Although the functions of CPAR-1 and of its separase-dependent cleavage remain to be elucidated, this effort reveals a new substrate of separase and provides an in vivo biosensor to monitor separase activity at the onset of meiosis I anaphase.
PMCID: PMC4412405  PMID: 25919583
11.  The outer kinetochore protein KNL-1 contains a defined oligomerization domain in nematodes 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2015;26(2):229-237.
Although the protein components at the kinetochore have been largely identified, there are limited data on how these proteins assemble into a higher-order structure. Biochemical analysis of the nematode kinetochore protein KNL-1 reveals that it oligomerizes in a structurally specific way, such that it could contribute to kinetochore organization.
The kinetochore is a large, macromolecular assembly that is essential for connecting chromosomes to microtubules during mitosis. Despite the recent identification of multiple kinetochore components, the nature and organization of the higher-order kinetochore structure remain unknown. The outer kinetochore KNL-1/Mis12 complex/Ndc80 complex (KMN) network plays a key role in generating and sensing microtubule attachments. Here we demonstrate that Caenorhabditis elegans KNL-1 exists as an oligomer, and we identify a specific domain in KNL-1 responsible for this activity. An N-terminal KNL-1 domain from both C. elegans and the related nematode Caenorhabditis remanei oligomerizes into a decameric assembly that appears roughly circular when visualized by electron microscopy. On the basis of sequence and mutational analysis, we identify a small hydrophobic region as responsible for this oligomerization activity. However, mutants that precisely disrupt KNL-1 oligomerization did not alter KNL-1 localization or result in the loss of embryonic viability based on gene replacements in C. elegans. In C. elegans, KNL-1 oligomerization may coordinate with other kinetochore activities to ensure the proper organization, function, and sensory capabilities of the kinetochore–microtubule attachment.
PMCID: PMC4294671  PMID: 25411336
12.  A new piece in the kinetochore jigsaw puzzle 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2014;206(4):457-459.
In eukaryotic cell division, the kinetochore mediates chromosome attachment to spindle microtubules and acts as a scaffold for signaling pathways, ensuring the accuracy of chromosome segregation. The architecture of the kinetochore underlies its function in mitosis. In this issue, Hornung et al. (2014. J. Cell Biol. identify an unexpected linkage between the inner and outer regions of the kinetochore in budding yeast that suggests a new model for the construction of this interface.
PMCID: PMC4137055  PMID: 25135931
13.  A Cell Biologist’s Field Guide to Aurora Kinase Inhibitors 
Frontiers in Oncology  2015;5:285.
Aurora kinases are essential for cell division and are frequently misregulated in human cancers. Based on their potential as cancer therapeutics, a plethora of small molecule Aurora kinase inhibitors have been developed, with a subset having been adopted as tools in cell biology. Here, we fill a gap in the characterization of Aurora kinase inhibitors by using biochemical and cell-based assays to systematically profile a panel of 10 commercially available compounds with reported selectivity for Aurora A (MLN8054, MLN8237, MK-5108, MK-8745, Genentech Aurora Inhibitor 1), Aurora B (Hesperadin, ZM447439, AZD1152-HQPA, GSK1070916), or Aurora A/B (VX-680). We quantify the in vitro effect of each inhibitor on the activity of Aurora A alone, as well as Aurora A and Aurora B bound to fragments of their activators, TPX2 and INCENP, respectively. We also report kinome profiling results for a subset of these compounds to highlight potential off-target effects. In a cellular context, we demonstrate that immunofluorescence-based detection of LATS2 and histone H3 phospho-epitopes provides a facile and reliable means to assess potency and specificity of Aurora A versus Aurora B inhibition, and that G2 duration measured in a live imaging assay is a specific readout of Aurora A activity. Our analysis also highlights variation between HeLa, U2OS, and hTERT-RPE1 cells that impacts selective Aurora A inhibition. For Aurora B, all four tested compounds exhibit excellent selectivity and do not significantly inhibit Aurora A at effective doses. For Aurora A, MK-5108 and MK-8745 are significantly more selective than the commonly used inhibitors MLN8054 and MLN8237. A crystal structure of an Aurora A/MK-5108 complex that we determined suggests the chemical basis for this higher specificity. Taken together, our quantitative biochemical and cell-based analyses indicate that AZD1152-HQPA and MK-8745 are the best current tools for selectively inhibiting Aurora B and Aurora A, respectively. However, MK-8745 is not nearly as ideal as AZD1152-HQPA in that it requires high concentrations to achieve full inhibition in a cellular context, indicating a need for more potent Aurora A-selective inhibitors. We conclude with a set of “good practice” guidelines for the use of Aurora inhibitors in cell biology experiments.
PMCID: PMC4685510  PMID: 26732741
Aurora kinase inhibitors; AZD1152; ZM447439; Hesperadin; MLN8237; MLN8054; MK-5108; MK-8745
14.  Meiotic Double-Strand Breaks Uncover and Protect Against Mitotic Errors in the C. elegans Germline 
Current biology : CB  2013;23(23):10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.015.
In sexually reproducing multi-cellular organisms, genetic information is propagated via the germline, the specialized tissue that generates haploid gametes. The C. elegans germline generates gametes in an assembly line-like process- mitotic divisions under the control of the stem cell niche produce nuclei that, upon leaving the niche, enter into meiosis and progress through meiotic prophase [1]. Here we characterize the effects of perturbing cell division in the mitotic region of the C. elegans germline. We show that mitotic errors result in a spindle checkpoint-dependent cell cycle delay but defective nuclei are eventually formed and enter meiosis. These defective nuclei are eliminated by programmed cell death during meiotic prophase. The cell death based removal of defective nuclei does not require the spindle checkpoint, but instead depends on the DNA damage checkpoint. Removal of nuclei resulting from errors in mitosis also requires Spo11, the enzyme that creates double-strand breaks to initiate meiotic recombination. Consistent with this, double strand breaks are increased in number and persist longer in germlines with mitotic defects. These findings reveal that the process of initiating meiotic recombination inherently selects against nuclei with abnormal chromosomal content generated by mitotic errors, thereby ensuring the genomic integrity of gametes.
PMCID: PMC3885542  PMID: 24239117
C. elegans; germline; mitosis; meiosis; recombination; cell death; DNA damage
15.  A Conserved RhoGAP Limits M-phase Contractility and Coordinates with Microtubule Asters to Restrict Active RhoA to the Cell Equator During Cytokinesis 
Developmental cell  2013;26(5):496-510.
During animal cell cytokinesis, the spindle directs contractile ring assembly by activating RhoA in a narrow equatorial zone. Rapid GTPase activating protein (GAP)-mediated inactivation (RhoA flux) is proposed to limit RhoA zone dimensions. Testing the significance of RhoA flux has been hampered by the fact that the GAP targeting RhoA is not known. Here, we identify M-phase GAP (MP-GAP) as the primary GAP targeting RhoA during mitosis/cytokinesis. MP-GAP inhibition caused excessive RhoA activation in M-phase leading to the uncontrolled formation of large cortical protrusions and late cytokinesis failure. RhoA zone width was broadened by attenuation of the centrosomal asters but was not affected by MP-GAP inhibition alone. Simultaneous aster attenuation and MP-GAP inhibition led to RhoA accumulation around the entire cell periphery. These results identify the major GAP restraining RhoA during cell division and delineate the relative contributions of RhoA flux and centrosomal asters in controlling RhoA zone dimensions.
PMCID: PMC4239416  PMID: 24012485
Mitosis; RhoA; Cytokinesis; MP-GAP; Ect2
16.  A Bub1–Mad1 interaction targets the Mad1–Mad2 complex to unattached kinetochores to initiate the spindle checkpoint 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2014;204(5):647-657.
A Bub1–Mad1 interaction targets the Mad1–Mad2 complex to unattached kinetochores to initiate the spindle checkpoint.
Recruitment of Mad1–Mad2 complexes to unattached kinetochores is a central event in spindle checkpoint signaling. Despite its importance, the mechanism that recruits Mad1–Mad2 to kinetochores is unclear. In this paper, we show that MAD-1 interacts with BUB-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mutagenesis identified specific residues in a segment of the MAD-1 coiled coil that mediate the BUB-1 interaction. In addition to unattached kinetochores, MAD-1 localized between separating meiotic chromosomes and to the nuclear periphery. Mutations in the MAD-1 coiled coil that selectively disrupt interaction with BUB-1 eliminated MAD-1 localization to unattached kinetochores and between meiotic chromosomes, both of which require BUB-1, and abrogated checkpoint signaling. The identified MAD-1 coiled-coil segment interacted with a C-terminal region of BUB-1 that contains its kinase domain, and mutations in this region prevented MAD-1 kinetochore targeting independently of kinase activity. These results delineate an interaction between BUB-1 and MAD-1 that targets MAD-1–MAD-2 complexes to kinetochores and is essential for spindle checkpoint signaling.
PMCID: PMC3941058  PMID: 24567362
17.  Crosstalk Between Microtubule Attachment Complexes Ensures Accurate Chromosome Segregation* 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;342(6163):10.1126/science.1246232.
The microtubule-based mitotic spindle segregates chromosomes during cell division. During chromosome segregation, the centromeric regions of chromosomes build kinetochores that establish end-coupled attachments to spindle microtubules. Here, we used the C. elegans embryo as a model system to examine the crosstalk between two kinetochore protein complexes implicated in temporally distinct stages of attachment formation. The kinetochore dynein module, which mediates initial lateral microtubule capture, inhibited microtubule binding by the Ndc80 complex, which ultimately forms the end-coupled attachments that segregate chromosomes. The kinetochore dynein module directly regulated Ndc80, independently of phosphorylation by Aurora B kinase, and this regulation was required for accurate segregation. Thus, the conversion from initial dynein-mediated, lateral attachments to correctly oriented, Ndc80-mediated end-coupled attachments is actively controlled.
PMCID: PMC3885540  PMID: 24231804
18.  Direct Binding of SAS-6 to ZYG-1 Recruits SAS-6 to the Mother Centriole for Cartwheel Assembly 
Developmental cell  2013;25(3):284-298.
Assembly of SAS-6 dimers to form the centriolar cartwheel requires the ZYG-1/Plk4 kinase. Here we show that ZYG-1 recruits SAS-6 to the mother centriole independently of its kinase activity; kinase activity is subsequently required for cartwheel assembly. We identify a direct interaction between ZYG-1 and the SAS-6 coiled-coil that explains its kinase activity-independent function in SAS-6 recruitment. Perturbing this interaction, or the interaction between an adjacent segment of the SAS-6 coiled-coil and SAS-5, prevented SAS-6 recruitment and cartwheel assembly. SAS-6 mutants with alanine substitutions in a previously described ZYG-1 target site or in 37 other residues, either phosphorylated by ZYG-1 in vitro or conserved in closely related nematodes, all supported cartwheel assembly. We propose that ZYG-1 binding to the SAS-6 coiled-coil recruits the SAS-6—SAS-5 complex to the mother centriole, where a ZYG-1 kinase activity-dependent step, whose target is unlikely to be SAS-6, triggers cartwheel assembly.
PMCID: PMC3655416  PMID: 23673331
Centriole; Plk4; Centrosome; Mitosis; Spindle
19.  The midbody ring scaffolds the abscission machinery in the absence of midbody microtubules 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;203(3):505-520.
The septins, but not midbody microtubules, are important for daughter cell cytoplasmic isolation and ESCRT-dependent midbody ring release during abscission.
Abscission completes cytokinesis to form the two daughter cells. Although abscission could be organized from the inside out by the microtubule-based midbody or from the outside in by the contractile ring–derived midbody ring, it is assumed that midbody microtubules scaffold the abscission machinery. In this paper, we assess the contribution of midbody microtubules versus the midbody ring in the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. We show that abscission occurs in two stages. First, the cytoplasm in the daughter cells becomes isolated, coincident with formation of the intercellular bridge; proper progression through this stage required the septins (a midbody ring component) but not the membrane-remodeling endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery. Second, the midbody and midbody ring are released into a specific daughter cell during the subsequent cell division; this stage required the septins and the ESCRT machinery. Surprisingly, midbody microtubules were dispensable for both stages. These results delineate distinct steps during abscission and highlight the central role of the midbody ring, rather than midbody microtubules, in their execution.
PMCID: PMC3824018  PMID: 24217623
20.  Mlh2 Is an Accessory Factor for DNA Mismatch Repair in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004327.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the essential mismatch repair (MMR) endonuclease Mlh1-Pms1 forms foci promoted by Msh2-Msh6 or Msh2-Msh3 in response to mispaired bases. Here we analyzed the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex, whose role in MMR has been unclear. Mlh1-Mlh2 formed foci that often colocalized with and had a longer lifetime than Mlh1-Pms1 foci. Mlh1-Mlh2 foci were similar to Mlh1-Pms1 foci: they required mispair recognition by Msh2-Msh6, increased in response to increased mispairs or downstream defects in MMR, and formed after induction of DNA damage by phleomycin but not double-stranded breaks by I-SceI. Mlh1-Mlh2 could be recruited to mispair-containing DNA in vitro by either Msh2-Msh6 or Msh2-Msh3. Deletion of MLH2 caused a synergistic increase in mutation rate in combination with deletion of MSH6 or reduced expression of Pms1. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the S. cerevisiae Mlh2 protein and the mammalian PMS1 protein are homologs. These results support a hypothesis that Mlh1-Mlh2 is a non-essential accessory factor that acts to enhance the activity of Mlh1-Pms1.
Author Summary
Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) is a common cancer predisposition syndrome. In this syndrome, predisposition to cancer results from increased accumulation of mutations due to defective mismatch repair (MMR) caused by a mutation in one of the human mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2. In addition to these genes, various DNA replication factors and the excision factor EXO1 function in the repair of damaged DNA by the MMR pathway. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the MLH2 gene encodes a MutL homolog protein whose role in DNA mismatch repair has been unclear. Here, we used phylogenetic analysis to demonstrate that the S. cerevisiae Mlh2 protein and the mammalian Pms1 protein are homologs. A combination of genetics, biochemistry and imaging studies were used to demonstrate that the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex is recruited to mispair-containing DNA by the Msh2-Msh6 and Msh2-Msh3 mispair recognition complexes where it forms foci that colocalize with Mlh1-Pms1 foci (note that scPms1 is the homolog of hPms2) and augments the function of the Mlh1-Pms1 complex. Thus, this work establishes the Mlh1-Mlh2 complex as a non-essential accessory factor that functions in MMR.
PMCID: PMC4014439  PMID: 24811092
21.  What the Hec is up with Mouse Oocyte Meiosis? 
Developmental cell  2013;25(1):3-4.
In this issue of Developmental Cell, Gui and Homer (2013) report that the proper execution of meiosis I in mouse oocytes requires the stabilization of cyclin B2 by the kinetochore protein Hec1, revealing unanticipated functions for both proteins.
PMCID: PMC3804012  PMID: 23597481
22.  Spindle assembly checkpoint proteins are positioned close to core microtubule attachment sites at kinetochores 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;202(5):735-746.
Depletion analyses and nanometer-scale mapping of spindle assembly checkpoint proteins reveal how these proteins are integrated within the substructure of the kinetochore.
Spindle assembly checkpoint proteins have been thought to reside in the peripheral corona region of the kinetochore, distal to microtubule attachment sites at the outer plate. However, recent biochemical evidence indicates that checkpoint proteins are closely linked to the core kinetochore microtubule attachment site comprised of the Knl1–Mis12–Ndc80 (KMN) complexes/KMN network. In this paper, we show that the Knl1–Zwint1 complex is required to recruit the Rod–Zwilch–Zw10 (RZZ) and Mad1–Mad2 complexes to the outer kinetochore. Consistent with this, nanometer-scale mapping indicates that RZZ, Mad1–Mad2, and the C terminus of the dynein recruitment factor Spindly are closely juxtaposed with the KMN network in metaphase cells when their dissociation is blocked and the checkpoint is active. In contrast, the N terminus of Spindly is ∼75 nm outside the calponin homology domain of the Ndc80 complex. These results reveal how checkpoint proteins are integrated within the substructure of the kinetochore and will aid in understanding the coordination of microtubule attachment and checkpoint signaling during chromosome segregation.
PMCID: PMC3760617  PMID: 23979716
23.  Tension Sensing by Aurora B Kinase is Independent of Survivin-Based Centromere Localization 
Nature  2013;497(7447):118-121.
Accurate segregation of the replicated genome requires chromosome biorientation on the spindle. Biorientation is ensured by Aurora B kinase, a member of the 4-subunit chromosomal passenger complex (CPC)1,2. Localization of the CPC to the inner centromere is central to the current model for how tension ensures chromosome biorientation—kinetochore-spindle attachments not under tension remain close to the inner centromere and are destabilized by Aurora B phosphorylation, whereas kinetochores under tension are pulled away from the influence of Aurora B, stabilizing their microtubule attachments3–5. Here we show that an engineered truncation of the INCENP/Sli15 subunit of budding yeast CPC that eliminates association with the inner centromere nevertheless supports proper chromosome segregation during both mitosis and meiosis. Truncated INCENP/Sli15 suppresses the deletion phenotypes of the inner centromere-targeting proteins Survivin/Bir1, Borealin/Nbl1, Bub1 and Sgo16. Unlike wildtype INCENP/Sli15, truncated INCENP/Sli15 localizes to pre-anaphase spindle microtubules. Premature targeting of full-length INCENP/Sli15 to microtubules by preventing Cdk1 phosphorylation also suppresses inviability of Survivin/Bir1 deletion. These results suggest that activation of Aurora B/Ipl1 by clustering either on chromatin or on microtubules is sufficient for chromosome biorientation.
PMCID: PMC3644022  PMID: 23604256
24.  Dominant Mutations in S. cerevisiae PMS1 Identify the Mlh1-Pms1 Endonuclease Active Site and an Exonuclease 1-Independent Mismatch Repair Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003869.
Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolypsis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) is a common cancer predisposition syndrome. Predisposition to cancer in this syndrome results from increased accumulation of mutations due to defective mismatch repair (MMR) caused by a mutation in one of the mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2/scPMS1. To better understand the function of Mlh1-Pms1 in MMR, we used Saccharomyces cerevisiae to identify six pms1 mutations (pms1-G683E, pms1-C817R, pms1-C848S, pms1-H850R, pms1-H703A and pms1-E707A) that were weakly dominant in wild-type cells, which surprisingly caused a strong MMR defect when present on low copy plasmids in an exo1Δ mutant. Molecular modeling showed these mutations caused amino acid substitutions in the metal coordination pocket of the Pms1 endonuclease active site and biochemical studies showed that they inactivated the endonuclease activity. This model of Mlh1-Pms1 suggested that the Mlh1-FERC motif contributes to the endonuclease active site. Consistent with this, the mlh1-E767stp mutation caused both MMR and endonuclease defects similar to those caused by the dominant pms1 mutations whereas mutations affecting the predicted metal coordinating residue Mlh1-C769 had no effect. These studies establish that the Mlh1-Pms1 endonuclease is required for MMR in a previously uncharacterized Exo1-independent MMR pathway.
Author Summary
Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolypsis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) is a common cancer predisposition syndrome. Predisposition to cancer in this syndrome results from increased accumulation of mutations due to defective mismatch repair (MMR) caused by a mutation in one of the mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 or PMS2/scPMS1. In addition to these genes, various DNA replication factors and the excision factor EXO1 function in the repair of damaged DNA by the MMR pathway. Although EXO1 is considered to be the major repair nuclease functioning in mismatch repair, the relatively low mutation rates caused by an exo1 deletion suggest otherwise. Here we used genetics, microscopy and protein biochemistry to analyze the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae to further characterize a poorly understood mismatch repair pathway that functions in the absence of EXO1 that is highly dependent on the Mlh1-Pms1 complex. Surprisingly, we found that the highly conserved metal binding site that is critical for the endonuclease activity of the Mlh1-Pms1 heterodimer is required for MMR in the absence of Exo1 to a much greater extent than in the presence of Exo1. Thus, this work establishes that there are at least two different polynucleotide excision pathways that function in MMR.
PMCID: PMC3814310  PMID: 24204293
25.  Acentrosomal Spindle Assembly & Chromosome Segregation During Oocyte Meiosis 
Trends in Cell Biology  2012;22(5):241-249.
The ability to reproduce relies in most eukaryotes on specialized cells called gametes. Gametes are formed by the process of meiosis in which, after a single round of replication, two successive cell divisions reduce the ploidy of the genome. Fusion of gametes at fertilization reconstitutes diploidy. In most animal species, chromosome segregation during female meiosis occurs on spindles assembled in the absence of the major microtubule-organizing center, the centrosome. In mammals, oocyte meiosis is error-prone and underlies the majority of birth aneuploidies. Here, we review recent work on acentrosomal spindle formation and chromosome alignment/separation during oocyte meiosis in different animal models.
PMCID: PMC3348331  PMID: 22480579

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