Elimination of virally infected or tumoral cells is mediated by cytotoxic T cells (CTL). Upon antigen recognition, CTLs assemble a specialized signaling and secretory domain at the interface with their target, the immune synapse (IS). During IS formation, CTLs acquire a transient polarity, marked by re-orientation of the centrosome and microtubule cytoskeleton toward the IS, thus directing the transport and delivery of the lytic granules to the target cell. Based on the implication that the kinase Aurora A has a role in CTL function, we hypothesized that its substrate, the mitotic regulator Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1), might participate in CTL IS assembly. We demonstrate that PLK1 is phosphorylated upon TCR triggering and polarizes to the IS. PLK1 silencing or inhibition results in impaired IS assembly and function, as witnessed by defective synaptic accumulation of T cell receptors (TCRs), as well as compromised centrosome and lytic granule polarization to the IS, resulting in impaired target cell killing. This function is achieved by coupling early signaling to microtubule dynamics, a function pivotal for CTL-mediated cytotoxicity. These results identify PLK1 as a new player in CTL IS assembly and function.

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