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Heubes, Simone (2007): The AAA-ATPase p97 in mitosis and fertilization. Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Biologie



Late mitotic events are chiefly controlled by proteolysis of key regulatory proteins via the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. In this pathway ubiquitin ligases modify substrates by attachment of ubiquitin (“ubiquitylation”), which usually results in their subsequent degradation by the 26S proteasome. The crucial ubiquitin ligase involved in late mitosis is the anaphase-promoting complex or cyclosome (APC/C). Among the many substrates of the APC/C is the anaphase inhibitor securin, whose destruction leads to activation of separase, which in turn triggers sister chromatid separation by proteolytic cleavage of cohesin. The APC/C also targets cyclin B1, an activating subunit of Cdk1 kinase, whose inactivation is a prerequisite for mitotic exit. The unstable APC/C substrates are often found in association with stable partner proteins. How single subunits of multi-protein complexes are selectively extracted and eventually degraded is largely unknown, but there is increasing evidence that additional factors assist to extract ubiquitin-carrying subunits from stable binding partners. One such factor is vertebrate p97 (Cdc48 in yeast), an abundant and highly conserved member of the AAA-ATPase family. It is involved in such diverse processes as transcriptional regulation, membrane fusion, and ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD). The unifying scheme in these seemingly unrelated functions is that p97 is able to “extract” preferentially ubiquitylated proteins from their environment. Roles of p97 in mitosis have recently emerged: p97 was reported to be required for spindle disassembly and for nuclear envelope reformation during mitotic exit in Xenopus. Furthermore, a genetic interaction between p97, separase and securin, as well as a requirement of p97 for separase stability, were discovered in fission yeast. Given these hints and the importance of ubiquitylation in both mitosis and p97 pathways, this study intended to elucidate additional mitotic roles of p97 in vertebrates. Towards this end, tools to interfere with p97 function in Xenopus egg extracts were developed. These included immunodepletion of the p97 adaptors Npl4, Ufd1 and p47 and addition of recombinant dominant-negative p97-mutants. ERAD, which could be established here for the first time in Xenopus egg extracts, was greatly impaired in the absence of p97 function. However, many aspects of mitosis were found to be unaffected. Importantly, p97’s proposed role in spindle disassembly was clearly falsified within this thesis. Furthermore, p97 was shown to be dispensable for activity and stability of vertebrate separase. Disassembly of the mitotic checkpoint complex, which prevents premature APC/C activation by sequestering its activator Cdc20, did also not require functional p97 despite its dependence on ubiquitylation of Cdc20. However, a novel function of p97 at fertilization was discovered. p97 was found to interact with nucleoplasmin, a histone-binding chaperone that catalyzes the exchange of sperm-specific basic proteins (SBPs) to histones. Indeed, interference with p97 function delayed sperm decondensation in Xenopus egg extracts, thereby confirming a novel role of this AAA-ATPase in sperm chromatin remodelling. In another project the role of securin in human cells was investigated. Human cells lacking securin had been reported to suffer from massive chromosome missegregation, which was in sharp contrast to the mild phenotype of securin knockout mice. In collaboration with the group of M. Speicher it could be demonstrated that chromosome losses in securin-/- cells are transient and give way to a stable segregation pattern after just a few passages. This was despite persisting biochemical defects such as reduced level and activity of separase. These data demonstrate that securin is dispensable for chromosomal stability in human cells.