Identification and analysis of novel mitotic inhibitors of the Caenorhabditis elegans Aurora B kinase

Todd Ryan Heallen, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Proper execution of mitosis requires the accurate segregation of replicated DNA into each daughter cell. The highly conserved mitotic kinase AIR-2/Aurora B is a dynamic protein that interacts with subsets of cofactors and substrates to coordinate chromosome segregation and cytokinesis in Caenorhabdiris elegans. To identify components of the AIR-2 regulatory pathway, a genome-wide RNAi-based screen for suppressors of air-2 temperature-sensitive mutant lethality was conducted. Here, I present evidence that two classes of suppressors identified in this screen are bona fide regulators of the AIR-2 kinase. The strongest suppressor cdc-48.3, encodes an Afg2/Spaf-related Cdc48-like AAA+ ATPase that regulates AIR-2 kinase activity and stability during C. elegans embryogenesis. Loss of CDC-48.3 suppresses the lethality of air-2 mutant embryos, marked by the restoration of the dynamic behavior of AIR-2 and rescue of chromosome segregation and cytokinesis defects. Loss of CDC-48.3 leads to mitotic delays and abnormal accumulation of AIR-2 during late telophase/mitotic exit. In addition, AIR-2 kinase activity is significantly upregulated from metaphase through mitotic exit in CDC-48.3 depleted embryos. Inhibition of the AIR-2 kinase is dependent on (1) a direct physical interaction between CDC-48.3 and AIR-2, and (2) CDC-48.3 ATPase activity. Importantly, the increase in AIR-2 kinase activity does not correlate with the stabilization of AIR-2 in late mitosis. Hence, CDC-48.3 is a bi-functional inhibitor of AIR-2 that is likely to act via distinct mechanisms. The second class of suppressors consists of psy-2/smk-1 and pph-4.1, which encode two components of the conserved PP4 phosphatase complex that is essential for spindle assembly, chromosome segregation, and overall mitotic progression. AIR-2 and its substrates are likely to be targets of this complex since mitotic AIR-2 kinase activity is significantly increased during mitosis when either PSY-2/SMK-1 or PPH-4.l is depleted. Altogether, this study demonstrates that during the C. elegans embryonic cell cycle, regulators including the CDC-48.3 ATPase and PP4 phosphatase complex interact with and control the kinase activity, targeting behavior and protein stability of the Aurora B kinase to ensure accurate and timely progression of mitosis.

Subject Area

Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Heallen, Todd Ryan, "Identification and analysis of novel mitotic inhibitors of the Caenorhabditis elegans Aurora B kinase" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3305161.