Cohesin is a multiprotein complex that establishes sister chromatid cohesion from S phase until mitosis or meiosis. In vertebrates, sister chromatid cohesion is dissolved in a stepwise manner: most cohesins are removed from the chromosome arms via a process that requires polo-like kinase 1 (Plk1), aurora B and Wapl, whereas a minor amount of cohesin, found preferentially at the centromere, is cleaved by separase following its activation by the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome. Here, we report that our budding yeast two-hybrid assay identified hsSsu72 phosphatase as a Rad21-binding protein. Additional experiments revealed that Ssu72 directly interacts with Rad21 and SA2 in vitro and in vivo, and associates with sister chromatids in human cells. Interestingly, depletion or mutational inactivation of Ssu72 phosphatase activity caused the premature resolution of sister chromatid arm cohesion, whereas the overexpression of Ssu72 yielded high resistance to this resolution. Interestingly, it appears that Ssu72 regulates the cohesion of chromosome arms but not centromeres, and acts by counteracting the phosphorylation of SA2. Thus, our study provides important new evidence, suggesting that Ssu72 is a novel cohesin-binding protein capable of regulating cohesion between sister chromatid arms.
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