The protein kinase NIMA is an indispensable pleiotropic regulator of mitotic progression in Aspergillus. Although several mammalian NIMA-like kinases (Neks) are known, none appears to have the broad importance for mitotic regulation attributed to NIMA. Nercc1 is a new NIMA-like kinase that regulates chromosome alignment and segregation in mitosis. Its NIMA-like catalytic domain is followed by a noncatalytic tail containing seven repeats homologous to those of the Ran GEF, RCC1, a Ser/Thr/Pro-rich segment, and a coiled-coil domain. Nercc1 binds to another NIMA-like kinase, Nek6, and also binds specifically to the Ran GTPase through both its catalytic and its RCC1-like domains, preferring RanGDP in vivo. Nercc1 exists as a homooligomer and can autoactivate in vitro by autophosphorylation. Nercc1 is a cytoplasmic protein that is activated during mitosis and is avidly phosphorylated by active p34(Cdc2). Microinjection of anti-Nercc1 antibodies in prophase results in spindle abnormalities and/or chromosomal misalignment. In Ptk2 cells the outcome is prometaphase arrest or aberrant chromosome segregation and aneuploidy, whereas in CFPAC-1 cells prolonged arrest in prometaphase is the usual response. Nercc1 and its partner Nek6 represent a new signaling pathway that regulates mitotic progression.
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