Involvement of p38α in the mitotic progression of p53-/- tetraploid cells
The tumor suppressor protein p53 plays a major role in preserving genomic stability. p53 suppresses a pathway leading from normal diploidy to neoplastic aneuploidy (via an intermediate metastable stage of tetraploidy) at two levels: first by preventing the generation/survival of tetraploid cells, and second by repressing their aberrant multipolar division. Here, we report the characterization of p53(-/-) tetraploid cells, which-at difference with both their p53(-/-) diploid and their p53(+/+) tetraploid counterparts-manifest a marked hyperphosporylation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase MAPK14 (best known as p38alpha) that is particularly strong during mitosis. In p53(-/-) tetraploid cells, phosphorylated p38alpha accumulated at centrosomes during the metaphase and at midbodies during the telophase. Selective knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of p38alpha had a dramatic effect on p53(-/-) (but not p53(+/+)) tetraploids, causing the activation of the spindle assembly checkpoint, an arrest during the metaphase, a major increase in abnormal bipolar and monopolar mitoses, as well as an increment in the generation of multinuclear cells. We conclude that the mitotic progression of p53(-/-) (but not p53(+/+)) tetraploids heavily relies on p38alpha, revealing a novel function for this protein in the context of aneuploidizing cell divisions.