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Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Dec;28(23):7199-211. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01040-08. Epub 2008 Sep 22.

MCAK-independent functions of ch-Tog/XMAP215 in microtubule plus-end dynamics.

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Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre, Robinson Way, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


The formation of a functional bipolar mitotic spindle is essential for genetic integrity. In human cells, the microtubule polymerase XMAP215/ch-Tog ensures spindle bipolarity by counteracting the activity of the microtubule-depolymerizing kinesin XKCM1/MCAK. Their antagonistic effects on microtubule polymerization confer dynamic instability on microtubules assembled in cell-free systems. It is, however, unclear if a similar interplay governs microtubule behavior in mammalian cells in vivo. Using real-time analysis of spindle assembly, we found that ch-Tog is required to produce or maintain long centrosomal microtubules after nuclear-envelope breakdown. In the absence of ch-Tog, microtubule assembly at centrosomes was impaired and microtubules were nondynamic. Interkinetochore distances and the lengths of kinetochore fibers were also reduced in these cells. Codepleting MCAK with ch-Tog improved kinetochore fiber length and interkinetochore separation but, surprisingly, did not rescue centrosomal microtubule assembly and microtubule dynamics. Our data therefore suggest that ch-Tog has at least two distinct roles in spindle formation. First, it protects kinetochore microtubules from depolymerization by MCAK. Second, ch-Tog plays an essential role in centrosomal microtubule assembly, a function independent of MCAK activity. Thus, the notion that the antagonistic activities of MCAK and ch-Tog determine overall microtubule stability is too simplistic to apply to human cells.

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