Evolutionarily conserved Cse4, the centromeric histone H3 variant (CENP-A in humans) and its chaperone Scm3 (HJURP in humans) which are essential for chromosome segregation have been shown to be overexpressed in many cancers. Overexpression and mis-localization of HJURP has been reported in lung and breast cancer cells and patients with elevated HJURP expression show reduced survival rate. Whether HJURP overexpression induces tumorigenesis is not understood. We showed that imbalanced stoichiometry of HJURP and SCM3 lead to defects in chromosome segregation and kinetochore integrity in human and yeast cells thereby providing a link between HJURP overexpression and mitotic defects in cancers. Genome wide screens will now allow us to identify genes/pathways that suppress or enhance phenotypes associated with overexpression of SCM3/HJURP for possible extrapolation to cancers. In continuation of these studies we have shown that Pat1 (Protein associated with topoisomerase II) interacts with Scm3. We determined that structural integrity of centromeric chromatin and faithful chromosome segregation requires Pat1. In collaboration with Kerry Bloom we used a pat1 null strain to define the number of Cse4 molecules at the yeast kinetochore. Studies with PAT1 will help us understand how topological structure of centromeric chromatin regulates chromosome segregation an area of research that is largely unexplored at the present time. Post-translational modifications (PTM) of histones are critical for many chromatin activities including chromosome segregation. Histone deactylase (HDAC) inhibitors are used for treatment of certain cancers, however, we do not fully understand the molecular targets of these inhibitors. We investigated the nature and role of PTM of centromeric histones in budding yeast with the long-term objective of targeting PTM of histones for anti-cancer therapy. We showed for the first time that budding yeast centromeres contain hypoacetylated histone H4 and also that increased acetylation of histone H4 on lysine 16 (H4K16) leads to chromosome mis-segregation. We also discovered that a balance in H4K16 acetyltransferase, Sas2, and H4K16 deacetylase, Sir2, is required for chromosome segregation. Notably, both Sas2 and Sir2 have human homologs. We will now determine if the acetylation pattern of H4 is cell cycle regulated, if altered H4 acetylation affect the structure of centromeric chromatin and the role of histone deactylases (HDAC) in chromosome segregation. We propose that combining HDAC inhibitors with drugs that compromise kinetochore function may be more effective for cancer treatment with minimal effect on normal cells. To study PTM of Cse4 we devised an innovative approach for biochemical purification of Cse4 and this facilitated the first comprehensive analysis of PTMs of Cse4. Conserved sites for acetylation, methylation and phosphorylation in Cse4 were identified. We generated a phospho-specific antibody and showed the association of phosphorylated Cse4 with centromeres and determined that Ipl1 phosphorylates Cse4 in vivo and in vitro for faithful chromosome segregation Our studies have shown that phosphorylation and methylation of Cse4 regulate chromosome segregation in S. cerevisiae. Overexpression and mis-localization of CENP-A is observed in colorectal cancers and leads to aneuploidy in flies. We showed that S. cerevisiae spt4 mutants show mis-localization of Cse4 and chromosome segregation defects that are complemented by human SPT4. We established the cause and effect of Cse4 mis-localization by showing that altered histone dosage and mis-localization of Cse4 to non-centromeric loci correlates with chromosome loss. Our studies have defined a novel role for the N-terminus of Cse4 in its Ub mediated proteolysis for faithful chromosome segregation. We are collaborating with Charlie Boone to identify pathways that mediate the proteolysis of Cse4 for faithful chromosome segregation. The long-term objective is to identify pathways that will specifically lead to killing of cancer cells overexpressing CENP-A. Our laboratory recently reported on the identification and characterization of genes that are "haploinsufficient" (HI) for genome stability. HI is a condition where a single functional copy of a gene is insufficient to sustain normal activity and leads to a mutant phenotype. HI leads to higher incidences of tumorigenesis and many tumors display aneuploidy. We designed a novel screen to identify and characterize genes that are "haploinsufficient" (HI) for genome stability using the hemizygous yeast deletion library representing nearly all genes (6500). We defined novel roles for BCY1 and the evolutionarily conserved Gamma tubulin complex as HI for chromosome segregation. Our studies defined a novel role for the gamma tubulin complex in spindle organization.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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National Cancer Institute Division of Basic Sciences
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Lai, Xianning; Beilharz, Traude; Au, Wei-Chun et al. (2013) Yeast hEST1A/B (SMG5/6)-Like Proteins Contribute to Environment-Sensing Adaptive Gene Expression Responses. G3 (Bethesda) 3:1649-59
Mishra, Prashant K; Ottmann, Alicia R; Basrai, Munira A (2013) Structural integrity of centromeric chromatin and faithful chromosome segregation requires pat1. Genetics 195:369-79
Boeckmann, Lars; Takahashi, Yoshimitsu; Au, Wei-Chun et al. (2013) Phosphorylation of centromeric histone H3 variant regulates chromosome segregation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Mol Biol Cell 24:2034-44
Au, Wei Chun; Dawson, Anthony R; Rawson, David W et al. (2013) A novel role of the N terminus of budding yeast histone H3 variant Cse4 in ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis. Genetics 194:513-8
Ainsworth, William B; Hughes, Bridget Todd; Au, Wei Chun et al. (2013) Cytoplasmic localization of Hug1p, a negative regulator of the MEC1 pathway, coincides with the compartmentalization of Rnr2p-Rnr4p. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 439:443-8
Deng, Yi; Guo, Yan; Watson, Hadiya et al. (2009) Gga2 mediates sequential ubiquitin-independent and ubiquitin-dependent steps in the trafficking of ARN1 from the trans-Golgi network to the vacuole. J Biol Chem 284:23830-41
Harper, Nicola C; Al-Greene, Nicole T; Basrai, Munira A et al. (2008) Mutations affecting spindle pole body and mitotic exit network function are synthetically lethal with a deletion of the nucleoporin NUP1 in S. cerevisiae. Curr Genet 53:95-105
Au, Wei-Chun; Crisp, Matthew J; DeLuca, Steven Z et al. (2008) Altered dosage and mislocalization of histone H3 and Cse4p lead to chromosome loss in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 179:263-75