Centrioles are small organelles composed of a 9-fold symmetric array of stabilized microtubules. Centrioles organize a proteinaceous matrix called the pericentriolar material (PCM) to form centrosomes. During the transition from interphase to mitosis, the PCM is remodeled in a process called centrosome maturation that prepares centrosomes to catalyze microtubule generation for spindle assembly.
In Aim 1, we capitalize on our C. elegans expertise to elucidate the pathways that remodel the centrosome during mitotic entry. Surprisingly, our preliminary results suggest that the essential function of Plk1 during centrosome maturation is not its previously documented role in matrix expansion, but the generation of specialized mitotic ?-tubulin complex docking sites that enable spindle assembly. We will take a biochemical approach to confirm this finding. Our work also suggests that the ?-tubulin complex docking site in interphase centrosomes is distinct from its mitotic docking site. In the second half of this aim, we will determine how the interphase PCM is organized on the outer centriole wall, where the ?-tubulin complex is docked, and how the interphase PCM serves as a structural foundation for assembly of the mitotic PCM. To examine the roles of centrioles in human cells, my lab collaboratively developed a specific, potent inhibitor of the Plk4 kinase that controls centriole duplication, called centrinone. Work using centrinone to deplete centrioles from cells led us to discover a ubiquitin ligase called TRIM37 that controls acentrosomal spindle assembly and the sensitivity of cancer cells to Plk4 inhibition in a bi-directional fashion. TRIM37 loss facilitates acentrosomal spindle assembly, whereas TRIM37 overexpression severely compromises it. Our preliminary work suggests that TRIM37 may perform these functions by ubiquitinating Plk4 to limit its self-assembly. In the absence of TRIM37, PLK4 self-assembles to form ectopic foci that recruit centrosomal proteins, acquire the ability to nucleate microtubules, and substitute for centrosomes in catalyzing microtubule generation for spindle assembly.
In Aim 2, we will rigorously test this hypothesis by performing in vitro assays to determine if TRIM37 directly ubiquitinates Plk4, and by assessing the effects of this modification on its kinase activity and ability to self-assemble. We will also assess the impact of blocking Plk4 self-assembly on centriole duplication and determine whether TRIM37-based modulation of Plk4 self-assembly also explains why elevated TRIM37 levels impart high sensitivity to Plk4 inhibition. Collectively, we anticipate that the proposed work will lead to new understanding of the centrosome cycle and the role of centrosomes in spindle assembly, as well as define specific cancer contexts in which PLK4 inhibition may provide a therapeutic benefit.
Centrioles are cellular organelles that are central to the mechanics of cell division and the ability of cells to proliferate. The aims of this proposal are to understand: (1) how centrioles contribute to cell division, and (2) how centriole removal using a chemical inhibitor of a key regulator of centriole duplication may be useful in cancer therapy.
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