Cohesin generates cohesion between sister chromatids, which enables chromosomes to form bipolar attachments to the mitotic spindle and segregate. Cohesin also functions in chromosome condensation, transcriptional regulation, and DNA damage repair. Here we analyze the role of acetylation in modulating cohesin functions and how it affects budding yeast viability. Previous studies show that cohesion establishment requires Eco1p-mediated acetylation of the cohesin subunit Smc3p at residue K113. Smc3p acetylation was proposed to promote establishment by merely relieving Wpl1p inhibition because deletion of WPL1 bypasses the lethality of an ECO1 deletion (eco1Δ wpl1Δ). We find that little, if any, cohesion is established in eco1Δ wpl1Δ cells, indicating that Eco1p performs a function beyond antagonizing Wpl1p. Cohesion also fails to be established when SMC3 acetyl-mimics (K113Q or K112R,K113Q) are the sole functional SMC3s in cells. These results suggest that Smc3p acetylation levels affect establishment. It is remarkable that, despite their severe cohesion defect, eco1Δ wpl1Δ and smc3-K112R,K113Q strains are viable because a cohesin-independent mechanism enables bipolar attachment and segregation. This alternative mechanism is insufficient for smc3-K113Q strain viability. Smc3-K113Q is defective for condensation, whereas eco1Δ wpl1Δ and smc3-K112R,K113Q strains are competent for condensation. We suggest that Smc3p acetylation and Wpl1p antagonistically regulate cohesin's essential role in condensation.
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