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Open Access Research article

Functional characterization of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae protein Chl1 reveals the role of sister chromatid cohesion in the maintenance of spindle length during S-phase arrest

Suparna Laha, Shankar P Das1, Sujata Hajra2, Kaustuv Sanyal3 and Pratima Sinha4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA-01604, USA

2 R&D Manager (Molecular Biology), HiMedia Laboratories Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India

3 Molecular Biology & Genetics Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Jakkur, Bangalore-560 064, India

4 Department of Biochemistry, Bose Institute, P1/12 CIT Scheme VII M, Kolkata

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-83

Published: 23 September 2011

Abstract

Background

Metaphase cells have short spindles for efficient bi-orientation of chromosomes. The cohesin proteins hold sister chromatids together, creating Sister Chromatid Cohesion (SCC) that helps in the maintenance of short spindle lengths in metaphase. The budding yeast protein Chl1p, which has human homologs, is required for DNA damage repair, recombination, transcriptional silencing and aging. This protein is also needed to establish SCC between sister chromatids in S-phase.

Results

In the present study we have further characterized Chl1p for its role in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae when cells are under replication stress. We show that when DNA replication is arrested by hydroxyurea (HU), the chl1 mutation causes growth deficiency and a mild loss in cell viability. Although both mutant and wild-type cells remained arrested with undivided nuclei, mutant cells had mitotic spindles, which were about 60-80% longer than wild-type spindles. Spindle extension occurred in S-phase in the presence of an active S-phase checkpoint pathway. Further, the chl1 mutant did not show any kinetochore-related defect that could have caused spindle extension. These cells were affected in the retention of SCC in that they had only about one-fourth of the normal levels of the cohesin subunit Scc1p at centromeres, which was sufficient to bi-orient the chromosomes. The mutant cells showed defects in SCC, both during its establishment in S-phase and in its maintenance in G2. Mutants with partial and pericentromeric cohesion defects also showed spindle elongation when arrested in S-phase by HU.

Conclusions

Our work shows that Chl1p is required for normal growth and cell viability in the presence of the replication block caused by HU. The absence of this protein does not, however, compromize the replication checkpoint pathway. Even though the chl1 mutation gives synthetic lethal interactions with kinetochore mutations, its absence does not affect kinetochore function; kinetochore-microtubule interactions remain unperturbed. Further, chl1 cells were found to lose SCC at centromeres in both S- and G2 phases, showing the requirement of Chl1p for the maintenance of cohesion in G2 phase of these cells. This work documents for the first time that SCC is an important determinant of spindle size in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae when genotoxic agents cause S-phase arrest of cells.

Keywords:
Yeast; Chl1; cohesion; spindle; hydroxyurea