Constitutive regulation of mitochondrial morphology by Aurora A kinase depends on a predicted cryptic targeting sequence at the N-terminus

Open Biol. 2018 Jun;8(6):170272. doi: 10.1098/rsob.170272.


Aurora A kinase (AURKA) is a major regulator of mitosis and an important driver of cancer progression. The roles of AURKA outside of mitosis, and how these might contribute to cancer progression, are not well understood. Here, we show that a fraction of cytoplasmic AURKA is associated with mitochondria, co-fractionating in cell extracts and interacting with mitochondrial proteins by reciprocal co-immunoprecipitation. We have also found that the dynamics of the mitochondrial network are sensitive to AURKA inhibition, depletion or overexpression. This can account for the different mitochondrial morphologies observed in RPE-1 and U2OS cell lines, which show very different levels of expression of AURKA. We identify the mitochondrial fraction of AURKA as influencing mitochondrial morphology, because an N-terminally truncated version of the kinase that does not localize to mitochondria does not affect the mitochondrial network. We identify a cryptic mitochondrial targeting sequence in the AURKA N-terminus and discuss how alternative conformations of the protein may influence its cytoplasmic fate.

Keywords: AURKA; mitochondria; mitochondrial dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aurora Kinase A / chemistry*
  • Aurora Kinase A / genetics
  • Aurora Kinase A / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proteomics


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • AURKA protein, human
  • Aurora Kinase A