The survivin-like C. elegans BIR-1 protein acts with the Aurora-like kinase AIR-2 to affect chromosomes and the spindle midzone.
Baculoviral IAP repeat proteins (BIRPs) may affect cell death, cell division, and tumorigenesis. The C. elegans BIRP BIR-1 was localized to chromosomes and to the spindle midzone. Embryos and fertilized oocytes lacking BIR-1 had defects in chromosome behavior, spindle midzone formation, and cytokinesis. We observed indistinguishable defects in fertilized oocytes and embryos lacking the Aurora-like kinase AIR-2. AIR-2 was not present on chromosomes in the absence of BIR-1. Histone H3 phosphorylation and HCP-1 staining, which marks kinetochores, were reduced in the absence of either BIR-1 or AIR-2. We propose that BIR-1 localizes AIR-2 to chromosomes and perhaps to the spindle midzone, where AIR-2 phosphorylates proteins that affect chromosome behavior and spindle midzone organization. The human BIRP survivin, which is upregulated in tumors, could partially substitute for BIR-1 in C. elegans. Deregulation of bir-1 promotes changes in ploidy, suggesting that similar deregulation of mammalian BIRPs may contribute to tumorigenesis.