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Mol Biol Cell. 2010 Jul 1;21(13):2150-60. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E10-02-0125. Epub 2010 May 12.

P38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activity is required during mitosis for timely satisfaction of the mitotic checkpoint but not for the fidelity of chromosome segregation.

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  • 1Division of Translational Medicine, Wadsworth Center, Albany, NY 12201-0509, USA.


Although p38 activity is reported to be required as cells enter mitosis for proper spindle assembly and checkpoint function, its role during the division process remains controversial in lieu of direct data. We therefore conducted live cell studies to determine the effect on mitosis of inhibiting or depleting p38. We found that in the absence of p38 activity the duration of mitosis is prolonged by approximately 40% in nontransformed human RPE-1, approximately 80% in PtK2 (rat kangaroo), and approximately 25% in mouse cells, and this prolongation leads to an elevated mitotic index. However, under this condition chromatid segregation and cytokinesis are normal. Using Mad2/YFP-expressing cells, we show the prolongation of mitosis in the absence of p38 activity is directly due to a delay in satisfying the mitotic checkpoint. Inhibiting p38 did not affect the rate of chromosome motion; however, it did lead to the formation of significantly (10%) longer metaphase spindles. From these data we conclude that normal p38 activity is required for the timely stable attachment of all kinetochores to spindle microtubules, but not for the fidelity of the mitotic process. We speculate that p38 activity promotes timely checkpoint satisfaction by indirectly influencing those motor proteins (e.g., Klp10, Klp67A) involved in regulating the dynamics of kinetochore microtubule ends.

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