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Concept: Motor protein


The correct assembly and timely disassembly of the mitotic spindle is crucial for the propagation of the genome during cell division. Aurora kinases play a central role in orchestrating bipolar spindle establishment, chromosome alignment and segregation. In most eukaryotes, ranging from amoebas to humans, Aurora activity appears to be required both at the spindle pole and the kinetochore, and these activities are often split between two different Aurora paralogues, termed Aurora A and B. Polar and equatorial functions of Aurora kinases have generally been considered separately, with Aurora A being mostly involved in centrosome dynamics, whereas Aurora B coordinates kinetochore attachment and cytokinesis. However, double inactivation of both Aurora A and B results in a dramatic synergy that abolishes chromosome segregation. This suggests that these two activities jointly coordinate mitotic progression. Accordingly, recent evidence suggests that Aurora A and B work together in both spindle assembly in metaphase and disassembly in anaphase. Here, we provide an outlook on these shared functions of the Auroras, discuss the evolution of this family of mitotic kinases and speculate why Aurora kinase activity may be required at both ends of the spindle microtubules.

Concepts: Cell, Eukaryote, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Aurora kinase, Motor protein, Spindle apparatus


Mitotic cells assume a spherical shape by increasing their surface tension and osmotic pressure by extensively reorganizing their interphase actin cytoskeleton into a cortical meshwork and their microtubules into the mitotic spindle. Mitotic entry is known to interfere with tissue morphogenetic events that require cell-shape changes controlled by the interphase cytoskeleton, such as apical constriction. However, here we show that mitosis plays an active role in the epithelial invagination of the Drosophila melanogaster tracheal placode. Invagination begins with a slow phase under the control of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signalling; in this process, the central apically constricted cells, which are surrounded by intercalating cells, form a shallow pit. This slow phase is followed by a fast phase, in which the pit is rapidly depressed, accompanied by mitotic entry, which leads to the internalization of all the cells in the placode. We found that mitotic cell rounding, but not cell division, of the central cells in the placode is required to accelerate invagination, in conjunction with EGFR-induced myosin II contractility in the surrounding cells. We propose that mitotic cell rounding causes the epithelium to buckle under pressure and acts as a switch for morphogenetic transition at the appropriate time.

Concepts: Protein, Eukaryote, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Chromosome, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Motor protein, Centrosome


Sca2 (surface cell antigen 2) is the only bacterial protein known to promote both actin filament nucleation and profilin-dependent elongation, mimicking eukaryotic formins to assemble actin comet tails for Rickettsia motility. We show that Sca2’s functional mimicry of formins is achieved through a unique mechanism. Unlike formins, Sca2 is monomeric, but has N- and C-terminal repeat domains (NRD and CRD) that interact with each other for processive barbed-end elongation. The crystal structure of NRD reveals a previously undescribed fold, consisting of helix-loop-helix repeats arranged into an overall crescent shape. CRD is predicted to share this fold and might form together with NRD, a doughnut-shaped formin-like structure. In between NRD and CRD, proline-rich sequences mediate the incorporation of profilin-actin for elongation, and WASP-homology 2 (WH2) domains recruit actin monomers for nucleation. Sca2’s α-helical fold is unusual among Gram-negative autotransporters, which overwhelmingly fold as β-solenoids. Rickettsia has therefore “rediscovered” formin-like actin nucleation and elongation.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Bacteria, Eukaryote, Actin, Cytoskeleton, Motor protein


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


To exert forces, motor proteins bind with one end to cytoskeletal filaments, such as microtubules and actin, and with the other end to the cell cortex, a vesicle or another motor. A general question is how motors search for sites in the cell where both motor ends can bind to their respective binding partners. In the present review, we focus on cytoplasmic dynein, which is required for a myriad of cellular functions in interphase, mitosis and meiosis, ranging from transport of organelles and functioning of the mitotic spindle to chromosome movements in meiotic prophase. We discuss how dynein targets sites where it can exert a pulling force on the microtubule to transport cargo inside the cell.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Eukaryote, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Motor protein, Microtubule


Kinesin-14s are commonly known as nonprocessive minus end-directed microtubule motors that function mainly for mitotic spindle assembly. Here we show using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy that KlpA-a kinesin-14 from Aspergillus nidulans-is a context-dependent bidirectional motor. KlpA exhibits plus end-directed processive motility on single microtubules, but reverts to canonical minus end-directed motility when anchored on the surface in microtubule-gliding experiments or interacting with a pair of microtubules in microtubule-sliding experiments. Plus end-directed processive motility of KlpA on single microtubules depends on its N-terminal nonmotor microtubule-binding tail, as KlpA without the tail is nonprocessive and minus end-directed. We suggest that the tail is a de facto directionality switch for KlpA motility: when the tail binds to the same microtubule as the motor domain, KlpA is a plus end-directed processive motor; in contrast, when the tail detaches from the microtubule to which the motor domain binds, KlpA becomes minus end-directed.

Concepts: Function, Eukaryote, Total internal reflection fluorescence microscope, Mitosis, Reflection, Motor protein, Spindle apparatus, Cell anatomy


The mitotic spindle consists of microtubules (MTs), which are nucleated by the γ-tubulin ring complex (γ-TuRC). How the γ-TuRC gets activated at the right time and location remains elusive. Recently, it was uncovered that MTs nucleate from preexisting MTs within the mitotic spindle, which requires the protein TPX2, but the mechanism basis for TPX2 action is unknown. Here, we investigate the role of TPX2 in branching MT nucleation. We establish the domain organization of Xenopus laevis TPX2 and define the minimal TPX2 version that stimulates branching MT nucleation, which we find is unrelated to TPX2’s ability to nucleate MTs in vitro. Several domains of TPX2 contribute to its MT-binding and bundling activities. However, the property necessary for TPX2 to induce branching MT nucleation is contained within newly identified γ-TuRC nucleation activator motifs. Separation-of-function mutations leave the binding of TPX2 to γ-TuRC intact, whereas branching MT nucleation is abolished, suggesting that TPX2 may activate γ-TuRC to promote branching MT nucleation.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Cytoskeleton, Mitosis, Motor protein, Tubulin, Microtubule, Cell anatomy, Microtubule organizing center


Kinetochore fibers (K-fibers) of the mitotic spindle are force-generating units that power chromosome movement during mitosis. K-fibers are composed of many microtubules that are held together throughout their length. Here we show, using 3D electron microscopy, that K-fiber microtubules are connected by a network of microtubule connectors. We term this network ‘the mesh’. The K-fiber mesh is made of linked multipolar connectors. Each connector has up to four struts, so that a single connector can link up to four microtubules. Molecular manipulation of the mesh by overexpression of TACC3 causes disorganization of the K-fiber microtubules. Optimal stabilization of K-fibers by the mesh is required for normal progression through mitosis. We propose that the mesh stabilizes K-fibers by pulling MTs together and thereby maintaining the integrity of the fiber. Our work thus identifies the K-fiber meshwork of linked multipolar connectors as a key integrator and determinant of K-fiber structure and function.

Concepts: Eukaryote, Mitosis, Meiosis, Motor protein, Microtubule


Permanency of mechanosensory stereocilia may be the consequence of low protein turnover or rapid protein renewal. Here, we devise a system, using optical techniques in live zebrafish, to distinguish between these mechanisms. We demonstrate that the stereocilium’s abundant actin cross-linker fascin 2b exchanges, without bias or a phosphointermediate, orders of magnitude faster (t1/2 of 76.3 s) than any other known hair bundle protein. To establish the logic of fascin 2b’s exchange, we examine whether filamentous actin is dynamic and detect substantial β-actin exchange within the stereocilium’s paracrystal (t1/2 of 4.08 hr). We propose that fascin 2b’s behavior may enable cross-linking at fast timescales of stereocilia vibration while noninstructively facilitating the slower process of actin exchange. Furthermore, tip protein myosin XVa fully exchanges in hours (t1/2 of 11.6 hr), indicating that delivery of myosin-associated cargo occurs in mature stereocilia. These findings suggest that stereocilia permanency is underpinned by vibrant protein exchange.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Actin, Myosin, Cytoskeleton, Motor protein, Cross-link, Exchange


Duplication of the yeast centrosome (called the spindle pole body, SPB) is thought to occur through a series of discrete steps that culminate in insertion of the new SPB into the nuclear envelope (NE). To better understand this process, we developed a novel two-color structured illumination microscopy with single-particle averaging (SPA-SIM) approach to study the localization of all 18 SPB components during duplication using endogenously expressed fluorescent protein derivatives. The increased resolution and quantitative intensity information obtained using this method allowed us to demonstrate that SPB duplication begins by formation of an asymmetric Sfi1 filament at mitotic exit followed by Mps1-dependent assembly of a Spc29- and Spc42-dependent complex at its tip. Our observation that proteins involved in membrane insertion, such as Mps2, Bbp1, and Ndc1, also accumulate at the new SPB early in duplication suggests that SPB assembly and NE insertion are coupled events during SPB formation in wild-type cells.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Cell, Light, Mitosis, Motor protein