p21Waf1/Cip1 deficiency causes multiple mitotic defects in tumor cells.

PMID 24317508


As a multifaceted molecule, p21 plays multiple critical roles in cell cycle regulation, differentiation, apoptosis, DNA repair, senescence, aging and stem cell reprogramming. The important roles of p21 in the interphase of the cell cycle have been intensively investigated. The function of p21 in mitosis has been proposed but not systematically studied. We show here that p21 is abundant in mitosis and binds to and inhibits the activity of Cdk1/cyclin B1. Deficiency of p21 prolongs the duration of mitosis by extending metaphase, anaphase and cytokinesis. The activity of Aurora B is reduced and the localization of Aurora B on the central spindle is disturbed in anaphase cells without p21. Moreover, HCT116 p21-/-, HeLa and Saos-2 cells depleted of p21 encounter problems in chromosome segregation and cytokinesis. Gently inhibiting the mitotic Cdk1 or add-back of p21 rescues segregation defect in HCT116 p21-/- cells. Our data demonstrate that p21 is important for a fine-tuned control of the Cdk1 activity in mitosis, and its proper function facilitates a smooth mitotic progression. Given that p21 is downregulated in the majority of tumors, either by the loss of tumor suppressors like p53 or by hyperactive oncogenes such as c-myc, this finding also sheds new light on the molecular mechanisms by which p21 functions as a tumor suppressor.