Mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK): a potential cancer drug target

Mourad Sanhaji, Claire T Friel, Linda Wordeman, Frank Louwen and Juping Yuan _

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Oncotarget. 2011; 2:935-947. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.416

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Mourad Sanhaji1, Claire T. Friel2, Linda Wordeman3,4, Frank Louwen1 and Juping Yuan1

1 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, School of Medicine, J. W. Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany

2 School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Nottingham, Medical School, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK

3 Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

4 Center for Cell Dynamics, Friday Harbor, Laboratories, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, USA

Received: December 31, 2011; Accepted: December 31, 2011; Published: December 31, 2011;

Keywords: MCAK, mitotic kinases, chromosome instability, drug resistance and invasiveness


Juping Yuan, email:


The inability to faithfully segregate chromosomes in mitosis results in chromosome instability, a hallmark of solid tumors. Disruption of microtubule dynamics contributes highly to mitotic chromosome instability. The kinesin-13 family is critical in the regulation of microtubule dynamics and the best characterized member of the family, the mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK), has recently been attracting enormous attention. MCAK regulates microtubule dynamics as a potent depolymerizer of microtubules by removing tubulin subunits from the polymer end. This depolymerizing activity plays pivotal roles in spindle formation, in correcting erroneous attachments of microtubule-kinetochore and in chromosome movement. Thus, the accurate regulation of MCAK is important for ensuring the faithful segregation of chromosomes in mitosis and for safeguarding chromosome stability. In this review we summarize recent data concerning the regulation of MCAK by mitotic kinases, Aurora A/B, Polo-like kinase 1 and cyclin-dependent kinase 1. We propose a molecular model of the regulation of MCAK by these mitotic kinases and relevant phosphatases throughout mitosis. An ever-increasing quantity of data indicates that MCAK is aberrantly regulated in cancer cells. This deregulation is linked to increased malignance, invasiveness, metastasis and drug resistance, most probably due to increased chromosomal instability and remodeling of the microtubule cytoskeleton in cancer cells. Most interestingly, recent observations suggest that MCAK could be a novel molecular target for cancer therapy, as a new cancer antigen or as a mitotic regulator. This collection of new data indicates that MCAK could be a new star in the cancer research sky due to its critical roles in the control of genome stability and the cytoskeleton. Further investigations are required to dissect the fine details of the regulation of MCAK throughout mitosis and its involvements in oncogenesis.

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