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Cyclin B-dependent kinase 1 regulates human TRF1 to modulate the resolution of sister telomeres

Megan McKerlie, Xu-Dong Zhu
Nature Communications

Cyclin B-Cdk1 is a key mediator of mitotic entry; however, little is known about its role in the separation of sister chromatids. Here we report that upon mitotic entry, Cdk1 specifically phosphorylates threonine 371 of TRF1, a telomere binding protein implicated in the regulation of sister telomere cohesion. Such phosphorylation is removed in late mitosis when Cdk1 activity is inhibited, indicative of a tight regulation of T371 phosphorylation. We show that T371 phosphorylation by Cdk1 keeps TRF1 free of chromatin and this phosphorylation is associated with loss of telomere-bound TRF1 and TIN2, and a reduction in telomere heterochromatin. We find that a phosphomimic mutation at T371 of TRF1 induces telomere deprotection, resulting in telomere loss and the formation of telomere fusions, whereas a non-phosphorylatable substitution of T371 blocks sister telomere resolution, promotes micronuclei formation and impairs cell proliferation. Our work suggests that Cdk1 controls TRF1 association with telomeres to facilitate temporal telomere de-protection, which is essential for sister telomere resolution.