The serine/threonine kinase Aurora-A (Aur-A) is a proto-oncoprotein overexpressed in a wide range of human cancers. Overexpression of Aur-A is thought to be caused by gene amplification or mRNA overexpression. However, recent evidence revealed that the discrepancies between amplification of
Aur-A protein was ubiquitinylated by APCCdh1 and consequently degraded when cells exited mitosis, and phosphorylation of Aur-A on Ser51 was observed during mitosis. Phosphorylation of Aur-A on Ser51 inhibited its APCCdh1-mediated ubiquitylation and consequent degradation. Interestingly, constitutive phosphorylation on Ser51 was observed in head and neck cancer cells with protein overexpression and stabilization. Indeed, phosphorylation on Ser51 was observed in head and neck cancer tissues with Aur-A protein overexpression. Moreover, an Aur-A Ser51 phospho-mimetic mutant displayed stabilization of protein during cell cycle progression and enhanced ability to cell transformation.
Broadly, this study identifies a new mode of Aur-A overexpression in cancer through phosphorylation-dependent inhibition of its proteolysis in addition to gene amplification and mRNA overexpression. We suggest that the inhibition of Aur-A phosphorylation can represent a novel way to decrease Aur-A levels in cancer therapy.