Erroneous Silencing of the Mitotic Checkpoint by Aberrant Spindle Pole-Kinetochore Coordination

Jing Chen, Jian Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To segregate chromosomes during cell division, microtubules that form the bipolar spindle attach to and pull on paired chromosome kinetochores. The spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) is activated at unattached and misattached kinetochores to prevent further mitotic progression. The SAC is silenced after all the kinetochores establish proper and stable attachment to the spindle. Robust timing of SAC silencing after the last kinetochore-spindle attachment herein dictates the fidelity of chromosome segregation. Chromosome missegregation is rare in typical somatic cell mitosis, but frequent in cancer cell mitosis and in meiosis I of mammalian oocytes. In the latter cases, SAC is normally activated in response to disruptions of kinetochore-spindle attachments, suggesting that frequent chromosome missegregation ensues from faulty SAC silencing. In-depth understanding of how SAC silencing malfunctions in these cases is yet missing, but is believed to hold promise for treatment of cancer and prevention of human miscarriage and birth defects. We previously established a spatiotemporal model that, to the best of our knowledge, explained the robustness of SAC silencing in normal mitosis for the first time. In this article, we take advantage of the whole-cell perspective of the spatiotemporal model to identify possible causes of chromosome missegregation out of the distinct features of spindle assembly exhibited by cancer cells and mammalian oocytes. The model results explain why multipolar spindle could inhibit SAC silencing and spindle pole clustering could promote it - albeit accompanied by more kinetochore attachment errors. The model also eliminates geometric factors as the cause for nonrobust SAC silencing in oocyte meiosis, and instead, suggests atypical kinetochore-spindle attachment in meiosis as a potential culprit. Overall, the model shows that abnormal spindle-pole formation and its aberrant coordination with atypical kinetochore-spindle attachments could compromise the robustness of SAC silencing. Our model highlights systems-level coupling between kinetochore-spindle attachment and spindle-pole formation in SAC silencing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2418-2435
Number of pages18
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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