The overarching goal of this project is to reveal the mechanisms that ensure error-free segregation of chromosomes during mitosis. While higher levels of segregation errors are lethal, relatively infrequent mis- segregation of individual chromosomes underlies 'chromosomal instability'(CIN), a hallmark of cancer transformation. Therefore, identifying the exact cause(s) of CIN and finding a way to attenuate the rate chromosome missegregation will likely lead to novel strategies for selective elimination of cancer cells. Toward this goal we are employing sophisticated imaging in conjunction with molecular and cell-biology techniques to characterize the 'mitotic spindle', a self-assembling molecular machine that enacts chromosome segregation. In the current funding period we plan to achieve three objectives: 1) Reconstruct 3-D architecture of the spindle in normal and CIN cells via a novel approach based on super-resolution light microscopy. Comparative analyses of spindle organization in normal vs. CIN cells will reveal the structural foundation of chromosome loss. Specifically, we will test the hypothesis that some chromosomes lack direct connections to spindle pole and that these chromosomes are more numerous in CIN cells. 2) Characterize the structural reorganization of kinetochores (macromolecular assemblies that attach chromosomes to spindle microtubules) during the transition from the initial 'lateral'to the final 'end-on'attachments. In spite of their importance, the ultrastructure of lateral attachments has not been described due to technological limitations. We will capitalize on a novel approach that involves direct correlation of multi-color light-microscopy with high-resolution electron tomography conducted on the same kinetochore. This approach will allow us test the hypothesis that the same molecular machinery (Hec1) mediates both lateral and end-on attachments and also reveal reorganization of the outer plate that underlies satisfaction of the mitotic checkpoint. 3) Test the hypothesis that mild inhibition of dynein, benign in normal cells, selectively suppresses mitosis in CIN cells. This idea stems from the preliminary data that a significant number of chromosomes in CIN cells lack a direct attachment to the spindle poles and these chromosomes rely on dynein-mediated transport for segregation. We will systematically characterize the effects of dynein inhibitors on cell proliferation, levels of cell death, patternsof chromosome movement, and mechanisms of spindle assembly in normal vs. CIN cells. If our hypothesis is proven correct, partial inhibition of dynein will emerge as a powerful therapeutic approach.

Public Health Relevance

The goal of cell division (mitosis) is to evenly segregate genetic material in the form of chromosomes between the two daughter cells. In cancer, the fidelity of chromosome segregation decreases so that individual chromosomes are often lost resulting in chromosomal instability (CIN). Importantly, while moderate levels of CIN promote tumorigenesis, higher increases in the frequency of chromosome loss compromise cells'viability and suppress growth of tumors. Thus, attenuating the level of CIN can potentially be used a therapeutic approach. Achieving this goal requires an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms whose failure lead to chromosome missegregation. This proposal seeks to reveal how the architecture of mitotic apparatus and deficiencies in various mechanisms that govern attachment of chromosomes to the mitotic apparatus and movements of chromosomes to the spindle poles affect the fidelity of chromosome segregation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Structure/Function and Dynamics Study Section (NCSD)
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Gindhart, Joseph G
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Wadsworth Center
United States
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Atilgan, Erdinc; Magidson, Valentin; Khodjakov, Alexey et al. (2015) Morphogenesis of the Fission Yeast Cell through Cell Wall Expansion. Curr Biol 25:2150-7
Sikirzhytski, Vitali; Magidson, Valentin; Steinman, Jonathan B et al. (2014) Direct kinetochore-spindle pole connections are not required for chromosome segregation. J Cell Biol 206:231-43

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