The spindle assembly checkpoint pathway is not essential for normal mitosis but ensures accurate nuclear division by blocking the metaphase to anaphase transition in response to a defective spindle. Here, we report the isolation of a new spindle checkpoint gene, mph1 (Mps1p-like pombe homolog), in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, that is required for checkpoint activation in response to spindle defects. mph1 functions upstream of mad2, a previously characterized component of the spindle checkpoint. Overexpression of mph1, like overexpression of mad2, mimics activation of the checkpoint and imposes a metaphase arrest. mph1 protein shares sequence similarity with Mps1p, a dual specificity kinase that functions in the spindle checkpoint of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Complementation analysis demonstrates that mph1 and Mps1p are functionally related. They differ in that Mps1p, but not mph1, has an additional essential role in spindle pole body duplication. We propose that mph1 is the MPS1 equivalent in the spindle checkpoint pathway but not in the SPB duplication pathway. Overexpression of mad2 does not require mph1 to impose a metaphase arrest, which indicates a mechanism of spindle checkpoint activation other than mph1/Mps1p kinase-dependent phosphorylation. In the same screen which led to the isolation of mad2 and mph1, we also isolated dph1, a cDNA that encodes a protein 46% identical to an S. cerevisiae SPB duplication protein, Dsk2p. Our initial characterization indicates that S.p. dph1 and S.c. DSK2 are functionally similar. Together these results suggest that the budding and fission yeasts share common elements for SPB duplication, despite differences in SPB structure and the timing of SPB duplication relative to mitotic entry.

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