Aurora kinases and spindle assembly: variations on a common theme?

Cell Cycle. 2011 Mar 15;10(6):895-903. doi: 10.4161/cc.10.6.14909. Epub 2011 Mar 15.


The Aurora A (AurA) serine/threonine kinase controls multiple aspects of cell division and plays a key role in centrosome maturation and bipolar spindle assembly. The pleiotropic functions of AurA depend on its interaction with several cofactors, the best known of which is TPX2. TPX2 targets AurA to spindle microtubules (MTs) and activates it, both allosterically and by protecting the activation loop (T-loop) of the kinase domain from dephosphorylation. Although several factors have been implicated in the regulation of AurA at centrosomes, the underlying mechanism has remained elusive, and the existence of a distinct centrosome-specific AurA activator has been proposed. Our recent study has identified this activator as Cep192/Spd-2, one of the key factors in centrosome biogenesis. Cep192 targets AurA to centrosomes, where it promotes its activation by a novel, oligomerization-dependent mechanism characterized by extensive T-loop phosphorylation and high kinase activity. This process is key to the function of centrosomes as microtubule-organizing centers. Here, our findings are discussed in the context of other recent studies on the Aurora kinases, with an emphasis on their role in spindle assembly. The collected evidence suggests that the 'hot spots' of MT nucleation, centrosomes and kinetochores, rely on the oligomerization-mediated mechanism of activation of AurA and AurB, respectively.

MeSH terms

  • Aurora Kinases
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Centrosome / metabolism
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / analysis
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Spindle Apparatus / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cep192 protein, human
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • TPX2 protein, human
  • Aurora Kinases
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases