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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Oct 4;108(40):16675-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1106748108. Epub 2011 Sep 26.

Examining the dynamics of chromosomal passenger complex (CPC)-dependent phosphorylation during cell division.

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Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The dynamic cellular reorganization needed for successful mitosis requires regulatory cues that vary across microns. The chromosomal passenger complex (CPC) is a conserved regulator involved in key mitotic events such as chromosome-microtubule attachment and spindle midzone formation. Recently, spatial phosphorylation gradients have been reported for CPC substrates, raising the possibility that CPC-dependent signaling establishes order on the micron-length scale in dividing cells. However, this hypothesis has not been tested, largely because of incomplete characterization of the CPC-dependent phosphorylation dynamics. Without these data it is difficult to evaluate perturbations of CPC signaling and select one that alters the spatial organization of substrate phosphorylation at a particular stage of mitosis, without changing overall phosphorylation levels. Here we examine the spatiotemporal dynamics of CPC-dependent phosphorylation along microtubules throughout mitosis using a Förster resonance energy transfer-based sensor. We find that a CPC substrate phosphorylation gradient, with highest phosphorylation levels between the two spindle poles, emerges when a cell enters mitosis. Interestingly, this gradient becomes undetectable at metaphase, but can be revealed by partially suppressing CPC activity, suggesting that high substrate phosphorylation levels can mask persistent CPC-dependent spatial patterning. After anaphase onset, the gradient emerges and persists until cell cleavage. Selective mislocalization of the CPC during anaphase suppresses gradient formation, but overall substrate phosphorylation levels remain unchanged. Under these conditions, the spindle midzone fails to organize and function properly. Our findings suggest a model in which the CPC establishes phosphorylation gradients to coordinate the spatiotemporal dynamics needed for error-free cell division.

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