The spindle checkpoint maintains genome stability by inhibiting Cdc20-mediated activation of the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) until all the chromosomes correctly align on the microtubule spindle apparatus via their kinetochores. BubR1, an essential component of this checkpoint, localises to kinetochores and its kinase activity is regulated by the kinesin-related motor protein Cenp-E. BubR1 also inhibits APC/CCdc20 in vitro, thus providing a molecular link between kinetochoremicrotubule interactions and the proteolytic machinery that regulates mitotic progression. Several other protein kinases, including Bub1 and members of the Ipl1/aurora family, also regulate anaphase onset. However, in human somatic cells Bub1 and aurora B kinase activity do not appear to be essential for spindle checkpoint function. Specifically, when Bub1 is inhibited by RNA interference, or aurora kinase activity is inhibited with the small molecule ZM447439, cells arrest transiently in mitosis following exposure to spindle toxins that prevent microtubule polymerisation. Here, we show that mitotic arrest of Bub1-deficient cells is dependent on aurora kinase activity, and vice versa. We suggest therefore that the checkpoint is composed of two arms, one dependent on Bub1, the other on aurora B. Analysis of BubR1 complexes suggests that both of these arms converge on the mitotic checkpoint complex (MCC), which includes BubR1, Bub3, Mad2 and Cdc20. Although it is known that MCC components can bind and inhibit the APC/C, we show here for the first time that the binding of the MCC to the APC/C is dependent on an active checkpoint signal. Furthermore, we show that both Bub1 and aurora kinase activity are required to promote binding of the MCC to the APC/C. These observations provide a simple explanation of why BubR1 and Mad2 are essential for checkpoint function following spindle destruction, yet Bub1 and aurora B kinase activity are not. Taken together with other observations, we suggest that these two arms respond to different spindle cues: whereas the Bub1 arm monitors kinetochore-microtubule attachment, the aurora B arm monitors biorientation. This bifurcation in the signalling mechanism may help explain why many tumour cells mount a robust checkpoint response following spindle damage, despite exhibiting chromosome instability.
- Spindle checkpoint