Plk4 is required for cytokinesis and maintenance of chromosomal stability

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Apr 13;107(15):6888-93. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910941107. Epub 2010 Mar 26.


Aneuploidy is a characteristic feature of established cancers and can promote tumor development. Aneuploidy may arise directly, through unequal distribution of chromosomes into daughter cells, or indirectly, through a tetraploid intermediate. The polo family kinase Plk4/Sak is required for late mitotic progression and is haploinsufficient for tumor suppression in mice. Here we show that loss of heterozygosity (LOH) occurs at the Plk4 locus in 50% of human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) and is present even in preneoplastic cirrhotic liver nodules. LOH at Plk4 is associated with reduced Plk4 expression in HCC tumors but not with mutations in the remaining allele. Plk4(+/-) murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) at early passage show a high incidence of multinucleation, supernumerary centrosomes, and a near-tetraploid karyotype. Underlying these phenotypes is a high rate of primary cytokinesis failure, associated with aberrant actomyosin ring formation, reduced RhoA activation, and failure to localize the RhoA guanine nucleotide exchange factor Ect2 to the spindle midbody. We further show that Plk4 normally localizes to the midbody and binds to and phosphorylates Ect2 in vitro. With serial passaging Plk4(+/-) MEFs rapidly immortalize, acquiring an increasing burden of nonclonal and clonal gross chromosomal irregularities, and form tumors in vivo. Our results indicate that haploid levels of Plk4 disrupt RhoGTPase function during cytokinesis, resulting in aneuploidy and tumorigenesis, thus implicating early LOH at Plk4 as one of the drivers of human hepatocellular carcinogenesis. These findings represent an advance in our understanding of genetic predisposition to HCC, which continues to increase in incidence globally and particularly in North America.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromosomal Instability*
  • Cytokinesis
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mitosis
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology


  • PLK4 protein, human
  • Plk4 protein, mouse
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases