Switches and latches: a biochemical tug-of-war between the kinases and phosphatases that control mitosis

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2011 Dec 27;366(1584):3584-94. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0087.


Activation of the cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk1) cyclin B (CycB) complex (Cdk1:CycB) in mitosis brings about a remarkable extent of protein phosphorylation. Cdk1:CycB activation is switch-like, controlled by two auto-amplification loops--Cdk1:CycB activates its activating phosphatase, Cdc25, and inhibits its inhibiting kinase, Wee1. Recent experimental evidence suggests that parallel to Cdk1:CycB activation during mitosis, there is inhibition of its counteracting phosphatase activity. We argue that the downregulation of the phosphatase is not just a simple latch that suppresses futile cycles of phosphorylation/dephosphorylation during mitosis. Instead, we propose that phosphatase regulation creates coherent feed-forward loops and adds extra amplification loops to the Cdk1:CycB regulatory network, thus forming an integral part of the mitotic switch. These network motifs further strengthen the bistable characteristic of the mitotic switch, which is based on the antagonistic interaction of two groups of proteins: M-phase promoting factors (Cdk1:CycB, Cdc25, Greatwall and Endosulfine/Arpp19) and interphase promoting factors (Wee1, PP2A-B55 and a Greatwall counteracting phosphatase, probably PP1). The bistable character of the switch implies the existence of a CycB threshold for entry into mitosis. The end of G2 phase is determined by the point where CycB level crosses the CycB threshold for Cdk1 activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase / chemistry*
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints*
  • Cyclin B / chemistry*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Interphase
  • Mitosis*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Yeasts / chemistry
  • Yeasts / cytology
  • cdc25 Phosphatases / chemistry


  • Cyclin B
  • Fungal Proteins
  • CDC2 Protein Kinase
  • cdc25 Phosphatases