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Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Jul 7;28(14):1853-1861. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E17-01-0034. Epub 2017 Mar 22.

Direct measurement of the strength of microtubule attachment to yeast centrosomes.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195


Centrosomes, or spindle pole bodies (SPBs) in yeast, are vital mechanical hubs that maintain load-bearing attachments to microtubules during mitotic spindle assembly, spindle positioning, and chromosome segregation. However, the strength of microtubule-centrosome attachments is unknown, and the possibility that mechanical force might regulate centrosome function has scarcely been explored. To uncover how centrosomes sustain and regulate force, we purified SPBs from budding yeast and used laser trapping to manipulate single attached microtubules in vitro. Our experiments reveal that SPB-microtubule attachments are extraordinarily strong, rupturing at forces approximately fourfold higher than kinetochore attachments under identical loading conditions. Furthermore, removal of the calmodulin-binding site from the SPB component Spc110 weakens SPB-microtubule attachment in vitro and sensitizes cells to increased SPB stress in vivo. These observations show that calmodulin binding contributes to SPB mechanical integrity and suggest that its removal may cause pole delamination and mitotic failure when spindle forces are elevated. We propose that the very high strength of SPB-microtubule attachments may be important for spindle integrity in mitotic cells so that tensile forces generated at kinetochores do not cause microtubule detachment and delamination at SPBs.

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