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J Cell Biol. 2020 Apr 6;219(4). doi: 10.1083/jcb.201912036.

Regulated changes in material properties underlie centrosome disassembly during mitotic exit.

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Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.
Departments of Cell Biology and Biophysics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.


Centrosomes must resist microtubule-mediated forces for mitotic chromosome segregation. During mitotic exit, however, centrosomes are deformed and fractured by those same forces, which is a key step in centrosome disassembly. How the functional material properties of centrosomes change throughout the cell cycle, and how they are molecularly tuned, remain unknown. Here, we used optically induced flow perturbations to determine the molecular basis of centrosome strength and ductility in C. elegans embryos. We found that both properties declined sharply at anaphase onset, long before natural disassembly. This mechanical transition required PP2A phosphatase and correlated with inactivation of PLK-1 (Polo kinase) and SPD-2 (Cep192). In vitro, PLK-1 and SPD-2 directly protected centrosome scaffolds from force-induced disassembly. Our results suggest that, before anaphase, PLK-1 and SPD-2 respectively confer strength and ductility to the centrosome scaffold so that it can resist microtubule-pulling forces. In anaphase, centrosomes lose PLK-1 and SPD-2 and transition to a weak, brittle state that enables force-mediated centrosome disassembly.


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