Aurora-A is a serine/threonine kinase that plays critical roles in centrosome maturation, spindle dynamics, and chromosome orientation and it is frequently over-expressed in human cancers. In this work, we show that Aurora-A interacts with the SUMO-conjugating enzyme UBC9 and co-localizes with SUMO1 in mitotic cells. Aurora-A can be SUMOylated in vitro and in vivo. Mutation of the highly conserved SUMOylation residue lysine 249 significantly disrupts Aurora-A SUMOylation and mitotic defects characterized by defective and multipolar spindles ensue. The Aurora-A(K249R) mutant has normal kinase activity but displays altered dynamics at the mitotic spindle. In addition, ectopic expression of the Aurora-A(K249R) mutant results in a significant increase in susceptibility to malignant transformation induced by the Ras oncogene. These data suggest that modification by SUMO residues may control Aurora-A function at the spindle and that deficiency of SUMOylation of this kinase may have important implications for tumor development.
Keywords: Aurora-A; SUMO; cancer; kinases; mitosis; spindle.