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Concept: Kinetochore


Mouse oocytes respond to DNA damage by arresting in meiosis I through activity of the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) and DNA Damage Response (DDR) pathways. It is currently not known if DNA damage is the primary trigger for arrest, or if the pathway is sensitive to levels of DNA damage experienced physiologically. Here, using follicular fluid from patients with the disease endometriosis, which affects 10% of women and is associated with reduced fertility, we find raised levels of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), which generate DNA damage and turn on the DDR-SAC pathway. Only follicular fluid from patients with endometriosis, and not controls, produced ROS and damaged DNA in the oocyte. This activated ATM kinase, leading to SAC mediated metaphase I arrest. Completion of meiosis I could be restored by ROS scavengers, showing this is the primary trigger for arrest and offering a novel clinical therapeutic treatment. This study establishes a clinical relevance to the DDR induced SAC in oocytes. It helps explain how oocytes respond to a highly prevalent human disease and the reduced fertility associated with endometriosis.

Concepts: Chromosome, DNA repair, Cell cycle, Meiosis, Polar body, Folliculogenesis, Kinetochore, Oocyte


Successful completion of mitosis requires that sister kinetochores become attached end-on to the plus ends of spindle microtubules (MTs) in prometaphase, thereby forming kinetochore microtubules (kMTs) that tether one sister to one spindle pole and the other sister to the opposite pole. Sites for kMT attachment provide at least four key functions: robust and dynamic kMT anchorage; force generation that can be coupled to kMT plus-end dynamics; correction of errors in kMT attachment; and control of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). The SAC typically delays anaphase until chromosomes achieve metaphase alignment with each sister kinetochore acquiring a full complement of kMTs. Although it has been known for over 30 years that MT motor proteins reside at kinetochores, a highly conserved network of protein complexes, called the KMN network, has emerged in recent years as the primary interface between the kinetochore and kMTs. This Commentary will summarize recent advances in our understanding of the role of the KMN network for the key kinetochore functions, with a focus on human cells.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Eukaryote, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Metaphase, Motor protein, Kinetochore, Spindle apparatus


The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) ensures the accurate segregation of sister chromatids during mitosis. Activation of the SAC occurs through a series of ordered molecular events that result in recruitment of Mad1:Mad2 complexes to improperly attached kinetochores. The current model involves sequential phospho-dependent recruitment of Bub3:Bub1 to KNL1 followed by binding of Mad1:Mad2 to Bub1. Here, we show in non-transformed diploid human cells that the KNL1-Bub3-Bub1 (KBB) pathway is required during normal mitotic progression when kinetochores are misaligned but is nonessential for SAC activation and Mad2 loading when kinetochores are unattached from microtubules. We provide evidence that the Rod-ZW10-Zwilch (RZZ) complex is necessary to recruit Mad1:Mad2 to, and delay anaphase onset in response to, unattached kinetochores independently of the KBB pathway. These data suggest that the KBB and RZZ complexes provide two distinct kinetochore receptors for Mad1:Mad2 and reveal mechanistic differences between SAC activation by unattached and improperly attached kinetochores.

Concepts: Cell cycle, Centromere, Mitosis, Meiosis, Kinetochore, Spindle apparatus, Chromatid, Spindle checkpoint


Equal mitotic chromosome segregation is critical for genome integrity and is monitored by the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC). We have previously shown that the consensus phosphorylation motif of the essential SAC kinase Monopolar spindle 1 (Mps1) is very similar to that of Polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1). This prompted us to ask whether human Plk1 cooperates with Mps1 in SAC signaling. Here, we demonstrate that Plk1 promotes checkpoint signaling at kinetochores through the phosphorylation of at least two Mps1 substrates, including KNL-1 and Mps1 itself. As a result, Plk1 activity enhances Mps1 catalytic activity as well as the recruitment of the SAC components Mad1:C-Mad2 and Bub3:BubR1 to kinetochores. We conclude that Plk1 strengthens the robustness of SAC establishment at the onset of mitosis and supports SAC maintenance during prolonged mitotic arrest.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Enzyme, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Kinetochore, PLK1


The chromosome alignment is mediated by polar ejection and poleward forces acting on the chromosome arm and kinetochores, respectively. Although components of the motile machinery such as chromokinesin have been characterized, their dynamics within the spindle is poorly understood. Here we show that a quantum dot (Qdot) binding up to four Xenopus chromokinesin (Xkid) molecules behaved like a nanosize chromosome arm in the meiotic spindle, which is self-organized in cytoplasmic egg extracts. Xkid-Qdots travelled long distances along microtubules by changing several tracks, resulting in their accumulation toward and distribution around the metaphase plate. The analysis indicated that the direction of motion and velocity depend on the distribution of microtubule polarity within the spindle. Thus, this mechanism is governed by chromokinesin motors, which is dependent on symmetrical microtubule orientation that may allow chromosomes to maintain their position around the spindle equator until correct microtubule-kinetochore attachment is established.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Cytogenetics, Centromere, Mitosis, Metaphase, Kinetochore


Loss of minichromosome maintenance protein 10 (Mcm10) causes replication stress. We uncovered that S. cerevisiae mcm10-1 mutants rely on the E3 SUMO ligase Mms21 and the SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligase complex Slx5/8 for survival. Using quantitative mass spectrometry, we identified changes in the SUMO proteome of mcm10-1 mutants and revealed candidates regulated by Slx5/8. Such candidates included subunits of the chromosome passenger complex (CPC), Bir1 and Sli15, known to facilitate spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) activation. We show here that Slx5 counteracts SAC activation in mcm10-1 mutants under conditions of moderate replication stress. This coincides with the proteasomal degradation of sumoylated Bir1. Importantly, Slx5-dependent mitotic relief was triggered not only by Mcm10 deficiency but also by treatment with low doses of the alkylating drug methyl methanesulfonate. Based on these findings, we propose a model in which Slx5/8 allows for passage through mitosis when replication stress is tolerable.

Concepts: Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Proteasome, Kinetochore, Spindle apparatus, Anaphase-promoting complex


Sister chromatid attachment during meiosis II (MII) is maintained by securin-mediated inhibition of separase. In maternal ageing, oocytes show increased inter-sister kinetochore distance and premature sister chromatid separation (PSCS), suggesting aberrant separase activity. Here, we find that MII oocytes from aged mice have less securin than oocytes from young mice and that this reduction is mediated by increased destruction by the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) during meiosis I (MI) exit. Inhibition of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) kinase, Mps1, during MI exit in young oocytes replicates this phenotype. Further, over-expression of securin or Mps1 protects against the age-related increase in inter-sister kinetochore distance and PSCS. These findings show that maternal ageing compromises the oocyte SAC-APC/C axis leading to a decrease in securin that ultimately causes sister chromatid cohesion loss. Manipulating this axis and/or increasing securin may provide novel therapeutic approaches to alleviating the risk of oocyte aneuploidy in maternal ageing.

Concepts: Cell cycle, Centromere, Mitosis, Meiosis, Kinetochore, Anaphase, Anaphase-promoting complex, Spindle checkpoint


The kinetochore is an essential structure that mediates accurate chromosome segregation in mitosis and meiosis. While many of the kinetochore components have been identified, the mechanisms of kinetochore assembly remain elusive. Here, we identify a novel role for Snap29, an unconventional SNARE, in promoting kinetochore assembly during mitosis in Drosophila and human cells. Snap29 localizes to the outer kinetochore and prevents chromosome mis-segregation and the formation of cells with fragmented nuclei. Snap29 promotes accurate chromosome segregation by mediating the recruitment of Knl1 at the kinetochore and ensuring stable microtubule attachments. Correct Knl1 localization to kinetochore requires human or Drosophila Snap29, and is prevented by a Snap29 point mutant that blocks Snap29 release from SNARE fusion complexes. Such mutant causes ectopic Knl1 recruitment to trafficking compartments. We propose that part of the outer kinetochore is functionally similar to membrane fusion interfaces.

Concepts: Gene, Cell nucleus, Eukaryote, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Kinetochore


Mitotically dividing cells use a surveillance mechanism, the spindle assembly checkpoint, that monitors the attachment of spindle microtubules to kinetochores as a means of detecting errors. However, end-on kinetochore attachments have not been observed in Caenorhabditis elegans oocytes and chromosomes instead associate with lateral microtubule bundles; whether errors can be sensed in this context is not known. Here, we show that C. elegans oocytes delay key events in anaphase, including AIR-2/Aurora B relocalization to the microtubules, in response to a variety of meiotic defects, demonstrating that errors can be detected in these cells and revealing a mechanism that regulates anaphase progression. This mechanism does not appear to rely on several components of the spindle assembly checkpoint but does require the kinetochore, as depleting kinetochore components prevents the error-induced anaphase delays. These findings therefore suggest that in this system, kinetochores could be involved in sensing meiotic errors using an unconventional mechanism that does not use canonical end-on attachments.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Caenorhabditis elegans, Caenorhabditis, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Metaphase, Kinetochore


Centromeres are essential for accurate chromosome segregation, yet sequence conservation is low even among closely related species. Centromere drive predicts rapid turnover because some centromeric sequences may compete better than others during female meiosis. In addition to sequence composition, longer centromeres may have a transmission advantage.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Species, Chromosome, Centromere, Meiosis, Kinetochore, Chromatid