Investigation into the role of Aurora A kinase activity during mitosis

  • Ellen Ridgway

    Student thesis: Unknown


    Aurora A is an important mitotic regulator that has been found to be up-regulated in a variety oftumours provoking a great deal of attention and the development of a number of small moleculeAurora kinase inhibitors. Most of these inhibitors though have predominantly targeted Aurora B,meaning that our understanding of the role of the kinase activity of Aurora A is comparatively lesswell developed.MLN8054 however, is a small molecule inhibitor that has been reported in vitro to have a highdegree of specificity towards Aurora A activity. In this thesis, I show in vivo that MLN8054 can beused to specifically inhibit Aurora A activity, and exploit this quality to probe the role of Aurora Aactivity in human cells. I was consequently able to show that Aurora A activity not only has a clearrole in spindle formation, where it is required for the determination of K-fibre length and in thedegree of centrosome separation, but also in the regulation of microtubule organisation. Despite thespindle deformities seen after inhibiting Aurora A activity, the majority of HeLa and DLD-1 cellswere still able to form bipolar spindles capable of attaching to kinetochores. These spindlestructures did not however, assert normal levels of force through the kinetochores, and cells wereconsequently unable to efficiently align their chromosomes, causing significant delays to mitoticprogression. Cells were still able to divide in the absence of Aurora A activity, although thedetection of segregation defects and aneuploid progeny indicates a role for Aurora A activity in thefaithful segregation of the genetic material. Importantly however, Aurora A activity was not foundto have a prominent role in the spindle assembly checkpoint.Increasing the potency of Aurora A inhibition by using a drug-resistant cell line confirmed theobservations made in HeLa and DLD-1 cells, emphasising that although Aurora A activity isrequired for spindle assembly, cells can still activate the spindle checkpoint and divide in itsabsence. I therefore propose that Aurora A activity is required for the formation of normal spindlestructures capable of efficiently aligning and evenly dividing chromosomes during cell division.These roles were attributed in part to the kinase activity of Aurora A in the regulation of TACC3and chTOG localisation on the spindle and centrosomes.Interestingly however, Aurora A activity did not appear to be required for spindle assembly in nontransformedcells, which were able to more efficiently align their chromosomes and dividefollowing Aurora A inhibition than the cancer cell lines. Furthermore, the non-transformed cellsaccumulated with 2N DNA after longer-term Aurora A inhibition, as opposed to the cancer celllines, which exhibited profound aneuploidy following the equivalent treatment. This finding isencouraging, as consistent with recently published reports, it indicates that Aurora A inhibitionmay be successfully used in order to specifically target cancer cells.
    Date of Award31 Dec 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorStephen Taylor (Supervisor)


    • Aurora A kinase, MLN8054, mitosis.

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