CENP-A is phosphorylated by Aurora B kinase and plays an unexpected role in completion of cytokinesis.
Aurora B is a mitotic protein kinase that phosphorylates histone H3, behaves as a chromosomal passenger protein, and functions in cytokinesis. We investigated a role for Aurora B with respect to human centromere protein A (CENP-A), a centromeric histone H3 homologue. Aurora B concentrates at centromeres in early G2, associates with histone H3 and centromeres at the times when histone H3 and CENP-A are phosphorylated, and phosphorylates histone H3 and CENP-A in vitro at a similar target serine residue. Dominant negative phosphorylation site mutants of CENP-A result in a delay at the terminal stage of cytokinesis (cell separation). The only molecular defects detected in analysis of 22 chromosomal, spindle, and regulatory proteins were disruptions in localization of inner centromere protein (INCENP), Aurora B, and a putative partner phosphatase, PP1gamma1. Our data support a model where CENP-A phosphorylation is involved in regulating Aurora B, INCENP, and PP1gamma1 targeting within the cell. These experiments identify an unexpected role for the kinetochore in regulation of cytokinesis.