Background: During asymmetric cell division in the Drosophila nervous system, Numb segregates into one of two daughter cells where it is required for the establishment of the correct cell fate. Numb is uniformly cortical in interphase, but in late prophase, the protein concentrates in the cortical area overlying one of two centrosomes in an actin/myosin-dependent manner. What triggers the asymmetric localization of Numb at the onset of mitosis is unclear.
Results: We show here that the mitotic kinase Aurora-A is required for the asymmetric localization of Numb. In Drosophila sensory organ precursor (SOP) cells mutant for the aurora-A allele aurA(37), Numb is uniformly localized around the cell cortex during mitosis and segregates into both daughter cells, leading to cell fate transformations in the SOP lineage. aurA(37) mutant cells also fail to recruit Centrosomin (Cnn) and gamma-Tubulin to centrosomes during mitosis, leading to spindle morphology defects. However, Numb still localizes asymmetrically in cnn mutants or after disruption of microtubules, indicating that there are two independent functions for Aurora-A in centrosome maturation and asymmetric protein localization during mitosis. Using photobleaching of a GFP-Aurora fusion protein, we show that two rapidly exchanging pools of Aurora-A are present in the cytoplasm and at the centrosome and might carry out these two functions.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that activation of the Aurora-A kinase at the onset of mitosis is required for the actin-dependent asymmetric localization of Numb. Aurora-A is also involved in centrosome maturation and spindle assembly, indicating that it regulates both actin- and microtubule-dependent processes in mitotic cells.