Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Mong-Hong Lee

Committee Member

Sai-Ching Yeung

Committee Member

Hui-Kuan Lin

Committee Member

Randy Legerski

Committee Member

Min-Gyu Lee


The mitotic kinase Aurora B plays a pivotal role in mitosis and cytokinesis and governs the spindle assembly checkpoint which ensures correct chromosome segregation and normal progression through mitosis. Aurora B is overexpressed in breast and other cancers and may be an important molecular target for chemotherapy. Tumor suppressor p53 is the guardian of the genome and an important negative regulator of the cell cycle. Previously, it was unknown whether Aurora B and p53 had mutual regulation during the cell cycle. A small molecule specific inhibitor of Aurora B, AZD1152, gave us an indication that Aurora B negatively impacted p53 during interphase and mitosis. Here, we show the antineoplastic activity of AZD1152 in six human breast cancer cell lines, three of which overexpress HER2. AZD1152 specifically inhibited Aurora B kinase activity, thereby causing mitotic catastrophe, polyploidy and apoptosis, which in turn led to apoptotic death. Further, AZD1152 administration efficiently suppressed tumor growth in orthotopic and metastatic breast cancer cell xenograft models. Notably, it was found that the protein level of Aurora B kinase declined after inhibition of Aurora B kinase activity. Investigation of the underlying mechanism suggested that AZD1152 accelerated the protein turnover of Aurora B by enhancing its ubiquitination.

As a consequence of inhibition of Aurora B, p53 levels were increased in tissue culture and murine models. This hinted at a possible direct interaction between p53 and Aurora B. Indeed, it was found that p53 and Aurora B exist in complex and interact directly during interphase and at the centromere in mitosis. Further, Aurora B was shown to phosphorylate p53 at several serine/threonine residues in the DNA binding domain and these events caused downregulation of p53 levels via ubiquitination mediated by Mdm2. Importantly, phosphorylation of threonine 211 was shown to reduce p53’s transcriptional activity while other phosphorylation sites did not. On a functional level, Aurora B was shown to reduce p53’s capacity to mediate apoptosis in response to the DNA damaging agent, cisplatin. These results define a novel mechanism for p53 inactivation by Aurora B and imply that oncogenic hyperactivation or overexpression of Aurora B may compromise p53’s tumor suppressor function.


Aurora B, p53, AZD1152, Breast Cancer



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