Shugoshin prevents dissociation of cohesin from centromeres during mitosis in vertebrate cells.
McGuinness BE., Hirota T., Kudo NR., Peters J-M., Nasmyth K.
Cohesion between sister chromatids is essential for their bi-orientation on mitotic spindles. It is mediated by a multisubunit complex called cohesin. In yeast, proteolytic cleavage of cohesin's alpha kleisin subunit at the onset of anaphase removes cohesin from both centromeres and chromosome arms and thus triggers sister chromatid separation. In animal cells, most cohesin is removed from chromosome arms during prophase via a separase-independent pathway involving phosphorylation of its Scc3-SA1/2 subunits. Cohesin at centromeres is refractory to this process and persists until metaphase, whereupon its alpha kleisin subunit is cleaved by separase, which is thought to trigger anaphase. What protects centromeric cohesin from the prophase pathway? Potential candidates are proteins, known as shugoshins, that are homologous to Drosophila MEI-S332 and yeast Sgo1 proteins, which prevent removal of meiotic cohesin complexes from centromeres at the first meiotic division. A vertebrate shugoshin-like protein associates with centromeres during prophase and disappears at the onset of anaphase. Its depletion by RNA interference causes HeLa cells to arrest in mitosis. Most chromosomes bi-orient on a metaphase plate, but precocious loss of centromeric cohesin from chromosomes is accompanied by loss of all sister chromatid cohesion, the departure of individual chromatids from the metaphase plate, and a permanent cell cycle arrest, presumably due to activation of the spindle checkpoint. Remarkably, expression of a version of Scc3-SA2 whose mitotic phosphorylation sites have been mutated to alanine alleviates the precocious loss of sister chromatid cohesion and the mitotic arrest of cells lacking shugoshin. These data suggest that shugoshin prevents phosphorylation of cohesin's Scc3-SA2 subunit at centromeres during mitosis. This ensures that cohesin persists at centromeres until activation of separase causes cleavage of its alpha kleisin subunit. Centromeric cohesion is one of the hallmarks of mitotic chromosomes. Our results imply that it is not an intrinsically stable property, because it can easily be destroyed by mitotic kinases, which are kept in check by shugoshin.