Development (Cambridge, England)

Nuclear removal during terminal lens fiber cell differentiation requires CDK1 activity: appropriating mitosis-related nuclear disassembly.

PMID 25139855


Lens epithelial cells and early lens fiber cells contain the typical complement of intracellular organelles. However, as lens fiber cells mature they must destroy their organelles, including nuclei, in a process that has remained enigmatic for over a century, but which is crucial for the formation of the organelle-free zone in the center of the lens that assures clarity and function to transmit light. Nuclear degradation in lens fiber cells requires the nuclease DNase IIβ (DLAD) but the mechanism by which DLAD gains access to nuclear DNA remains unknown. In eukaryotic cells, cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1), in combination with either activator cyclins A or B, stimulates mitotic entry, in part, by phosphorylating the nuclear lamin proteins leading to the disassembly of the nuclear lamina and subsequent nuclear envelope breakdown. Although most post-mitotic cells lack CDK1 and cyclins, lens fiber cells maintain these proteins. Here, we show that loss of CDK1 from the lens inhibited the phosphorylation of nuclear lamins A and C, prevented the entry of DLAD into the nucleus, and resulted in abnormal retention of nuclei. In the presence of CDK1, a single focus of the phosphonuclear mitotic apparatus is observed, but it is not focused in CDK1-deficient lenses. CDK1 deficiency inhibited mitosis, but did not prevent DNA replication, resulting in an overall reduction of lens epithelial cells, with the remaining cells possessing an abnormally large nucleus. These observations suggest that CDK1-dependent phosphorylations required for the initiation of nuclear membrane disassembly during mitosis are adapted for removal of nuclei during fiber cell differentiation.