Mitosis-specific phosphorylation by cdc2 kinase causes nonmuscle caldesmon to dissociate from microfilaments during prometaphase. (Yamashiro, S., Y. Yamakita, R. Ishikawa, and F. Matsumura. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 344:675-678; Yamashiro, S., Y. Yamakita, H. Hosoya, and F. Matsumura. 1991. Nature (Lond.) 349:169-172). To explore the functions of caldesmon phosphorylation during cytokinesis, we have examined the relationship between the phosphorylation level, actin-binding, and in vivo localization of caldesmon in cultured cells after their release of metaphase arrest. Immunofluorescence studies have revealed that caldesmon is localized diffusely throughout cytoplasm in metaphase. During early stages of cytokinesis, caldesmon is still diffusely present and not concentrated in contractile rings, in contrast to the accumulation of actin in cleavage furrows during cytokinesis. In later stages of cytokinesis, most caldesmon is observed to be yet diffusely localized although some concentration of caldesmon is observed in cortexes as well as in cleavage furrows. When daughter cells begin to spread, caldesmon shows complete colocalization with F-actin-containing structures. These observations are consistent with changes in the levels of microfilament-associated caldesmon during synchronized cell division. Caldesmon is missing from microfilaments in prometaphase cells arrested by nocodazole treatment, as shown previously (Yamashiro, S., Y. Yamakita, R. Iskikawa, and F. Matsumura. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 344:675-678). The level of microfilament-associated caldesmon stays low (12% of that of interphase cells) when some cells start cytokinesis at 40 min after the release of metaphase arrest. When 60% of cells finish cytokinesis at 60 min, the level of microfilament-associated caldesmon is recovered to 50% of that of interphase cells. The level of microfilament-associated caldesmon is then gradually increased to 80% when cells show spreading at 120 min. Dephosphorylation appears to occur during cytokinesis. It starts when cells begin to show cytokinesis at 40 min and completes when most cells finish cytokinesis at 60 min. These results suggest that caldesmon is not associated with microfilaments of cleavage furrows at least in initial stages of cytokinesis and that dephosphorylation of caldesmon appears to couple with its reassociation with microfilaments. Because caldesmon is known to inhibit actomyosin ATPase and/or regulate actin assembly, its continued dissociation from microfilaments may be required for the assembly and/or activation of contractile rings.

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