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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Aug 25;106(34):14542-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904229106. Epub 2009 Aug 11.

Polo-like kinases mediate cell survival in mitochondrial dysfunction.

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  • 1Translational Medicine Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Cancer cells often display defects in mitochondrial respiration, thus the identification of pathways that promote cell survival under this metabolic state may have therapeutic implications. Here, we report that the targeted ablation of mitochondrial respiration markedly increases expression of Polo-like kinase 2 (PLK2) and that it is required for the in vitro growth of these nonrespiring cells. Furthermore, we identify PLK2 as a kinase that phosphorylates Ser-137 of PLK1, which is sufficient to mediate this survival signal. In vivo, knockdown of PLK2 in an isogenic human cell line with a modest defect in mitochondrial respiration eliminates xenograft formation, indicating that PLK2 activity is necessary for growth of cells with compromised respiration. Our findings delineate a mitochondrial dysfunction responsive cell cycle pathway critical for determining cancer cell outcome.

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