BACKGROUND: Exit from mitosis requires inactivation of mitotic cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). A key mechanism of CDK inactivation is ubiquitin-mediated cyclin proteolysis, which is triggered by the late mitotic activation of a ubiquitin ligase known as the anaphase-promoting complex (APC). Activation of the APC requires its association with substoichiometric activating subunits termed Cdc20 and Hct1 (also known as Cdh1). Here, we explore the molecular function and regulation of the APC regulatory subunit Hct1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. RESULTS: Recombinant Hct1 activated the cyclin-ubiquitin ligase activity of APC isolated from multiple cell cycle stages. APC isolated from cells arrested in G1, or in late mitosis due to the cdc14-1 mutation, was more responsive to Hct1 than APC isolated from other stages. We found that Hct1 was phosphorylated in vivo at multiple CDK consensus sites during cell cycle stages when activity of the cyclin-dependent kinase Cdc28 is high and APC activity is low. Purified Hct1 was phosphorylated in vitro at these sites by purified Cdc28-cyclin complexes, and phosphorylation abolished the ability of Hct1 to activate the APC in vitro. The phosphatase Cdc14, which is known to be required for APC activation in vivo, was able to reverse the effects of Cdc28 by catalyzing Hct1 dephosphorylation and activation. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that Hct1 phosphorylation is a key regulatory mechanism in the control of cyclin destruction. Phosphorylation of Hct1 provides a mechanism by which Cdc28 blocks its own inactivation during S phase and early mitosis. Following anaphase, dephosphorylation of Hct1 by Cdc14 may help initiate cyclin destruction.
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