Nucleolar spindle associated protein (NuSAP) is a microtubule-stabilizing protein that localizes to chromosome arms and chromosome-proximal microtubules during mitosis and to the nucleus, with enrichment in the nucleoli, during interphase. The critical function of NuSAP is underscored by the finding that its depletion in HeLa cells results in various mitotic defects. Moreover, NuSAP is found overexpressed in multiple cancers and its expression levels often correlate with the aggressiveness of cancer. Due to its localization on chromosome arms and combination of microtubule-stabilizing and DNA-binding properties, NuSAP takes a special place within the extensive group of spindle assembly factors. In this study, we identify a SAP-like domain that shows DNA binding in vitro with a preference for dsDNA. Deletion of the SAP-like domain abolishes chromosome arm binding of NuSAP during mitosis, but is not sufficient to abrogate its chromosome-proximal localization after anaphase onset. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments revealed the highly dynamic nature of this NuSAP-chromatin interaction during mitosis. In interphase cells, NuSAP also interacts with chromatin through its SAP-like domain, as evident from its enrichment on dense chromatin regions and intranuclear mobility, measured by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The obtained results are in agreement with a model where NuSAP dynamically stabilizes newly formed microtubules on mitotic chromosomes to enhance chromosome positioning without immobilizing these microtubules. Interphase NuSAP-chromatin interaction suggests additional functions for NuSAP, as recently identified for other nuclear spindle assembly factors with a role in gene expression or DNA damage response.
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