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J Cell Sci. 2002 Feb 1;115(Pt 3):575-85.

Survivin exists in immunochemically distinct subcellular pools and is involved in spindle microtubule function.

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  • 1Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, 295 Congress Avenue, New Haven, CT 06536, USA.


Survivin is a member of the inhibitor of apoptosis gene family that has been implicated in both apoptosis inhibition and regulation of mitosis. However, the subcellular distribution of survivin has been controversial and variously described as a microtubule-associated protein or chromosomal passenger protein. Here, we show that antibodies directed to the survivin sequence Ala(3)-Ile(19) exclusively recognized a nuclear pool of survivin that segregated with nucleoplasmic proteins, but not with outer nuclear matrix or nuclear matrix proteins. By immunofluorescence, nuclear survivin localized to kinetochores of metaphase chromosomes, and to the central spindle midzone at anaphase. However, antibodies to Cys(57)-Trp(67) identified a cytosolic pool of survivin, which associated with interphase microtubules, centrosomes, spindle poles and mitotic spindle microtubules at metaphase and anaphase. Polyclonal antibodies recognizing survivin epitopes Ala(3)-Ile(19), Met(38)-Thr(48), Pro(47)-Phe(58) and Cys(57)-Trp(67) identified both survivin pools within the same mitotic cell. A ratio of approximately 1:6 for nuclear versus cytosolic survivin was obtained by quantitative subcellular fractionation. In synchronized cultures, cytosolic survivin abruptly increased at mitosis, physically associated with p34(cdc2), and was phosphorylated by p34(cdc2) on Thr(34), in vivo. By contrast, nuclear survivin began to accumulate in S phase, was not complexed with p34(cdc2) and was not phosphorylated on Thr(34). Intracellular loading of a polyclonal antibody to survivin caused microtubule defects and resulted in formation of multipolar mitotic spindles, but did not interfere with cytokinesis. These data demonstrate that although both reported localizations of survivin exist in mitotic cells, the preponderant survivin pool is associated with microtubules and participates in the assembly of a bipolar mitotic spindle.

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