The assembly of a functional mitotic spindle is crucial for achieving successful mitosis. Aurora A kinase is one of the key regulators of mitotic events, including mitotic entry, centrosome maturation and spindle bipolarity. Caenorhabditis elegans Aurora A (AIR-1) is responsible for the assembly of γ-tubulin-independent microtubules in early embryos; however, the mechanism by which AIR-1 contributes to microtubule assembly during mitosis has been unclear. Here we show by live-cell imaging and RNA-mediated interference (RNAi)-based modulation of gene activity that AIR-1 has a crucial role in the assembly of chromatin-stimulated microtubules that is independent of the γ-tubulin complex. Surprisingly, the kinase activity of AIR-1 is dispensable for this process. Although the kinase-inactive form of AIR-1 was detected along the microtubules as well as on centrosomes, the kinase-active form of AIR-1 was restricted to centrosomes. Thus, we propose that AIR-1 has a kinase-dependent role at centrosomes and a kinase-independent role for stabilizing spindle microtubules and that coordination of these two roles is crucial for the assembly of mitotic spindles.
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