At mitosis, focal adhesions disassemble and the signal transduction from focal adhesions is inactivated. We have found that components of focal adhesions including focal adhesion kinase (FAK), paxillin, and p130CAS (CAS) are serine/threonine phosphorylated during mitosis when all three proteins are tyrosine dephosphorylated. Mitosis-specific phosphorylation continues past cytokinesis and is reversed during post-mitotic cell spreading.

We have found two significant alterations in FAK-mediated signal transduction during mitosis. First, the association of FAK with CAS or c-Src is greatly inhibited, with levels decreasing to 16 and 13% of the interphase levels, respectively. Second, mitotic FAK shows decreased binding to a peptide mimicking the cytoplasmic domain of beta-integrin when compared with FAK of interphase cells. Mitosis-specific phosphorylation is responsible for the disruption of FAK/CAS binding because dephosphorylation of mitotic FAK in vitro by protein serine/threonine phosphatase 1 restores the ability of FAK to associate with CAS, though not with c-Src. These results suggest that mitosis-specific modification of FAK uncouples signal transduction pathways involving integrin, CAS, and c-Src, and may maintain FAK in an inactive state until post-mitotic spreading.

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