TPX2 has multiple functions during mitosis, including microtubule nucleation around the chromosomes and the targeting of Xklp2 and Aurora A to the spindle. We have performed a detailed domain functional analysis of TPX2 and found that a large N-terminal domain containing the Aurora A binding peptide interacts directly with and nucleates microtubules in pure tubulin solutions. However, it cannot substitute the endogenous TPX2 to support microtubule nucleation in response to Ran guanosine triphosphate (GTP) and spindle assembly in egg extracts. By contrast, a large C-terminal domain of TPX2 that does not bind directly to pure microtubules and does not bind Aurora A kinase rescues microtubule nucleation in response to RanGTP and spindle assembly in TPX2-depleted extract. These and previous results suggest that under physiological conditions, TPX2 is essential for microtubule nucleation around chromatin and functions in a network of other molecules, some of which also are regulated by RanGTP.
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