NuMA is a 236 kDa intranuclear protein that is distributed into each daughter cell during mitosis through association with the pericentrosomal region of the mitotic spindle. NuMA's interaction with the microtubules of the mitotic spindle is mediated through its 45 kDa carboxyl-terminal globular tail, and there is indirect evidence suggesting that NuMA's interaction with the mitotic spindle is controlled in a mitosis-specific manner. Consistent with this evidence is the fact that all four of the predicted p34cdc2 consensus phosphorylation sites in the NuMA protein are located in the carboxyl-terminal globular domain, and we demonstrate here that NuMA is phosphorylated in a mitosis-specific fashion in vivo. To test if the predicted p34cdc2 phosphorylation sites are necessary for NuMA's mitosis-specific interaction with the mitotic spindle, we have introduced mutations into the human NuMA cDNA that convert these predicted p34cdc2 phosphorylation sites from threonine or serine residues into alanine residues, and subsequently determined the cell cycle-dependent localization of these altered NuMA proteins following their expression in tissue culture cells. While none of these specific mutations in the NuMA sequence alters the faithful targeting of the protein into the interphase nucleus, mutation of threonine residue 2040 alone or in combination with mutations in other potential p34cdc2 phosphorylation sites abolishes NuMA's ability to associate normally with the microtubules of the mitotic spindle. Instead of binding to the mitotic spindle these mutant forms of NuMA concentrate at the plasma membrane of the mitotic cell. Cells expressing these mutant forms of NuMA have disorganized mitotic spindles, fail to complete cytokinesis normally, and assemble micronuclei in the subsequent interphase. These data suggest that NuMA's interaction with the microtubules of the mitotic spindle is controlled by cell cycle-dependent phosphorylation in addition to differential subcellular compartmentalization, and the characteristics of the dominant negative phenotype induced by these mutant forms of NuMA support a role for NuMA in the organization of the mitotic spindle apparatus.

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