The Francis Crick Institute
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CDK substrate phosphorylation and ordering the cell cycle

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-10-02, 14:25 authored by Matthew P Swaffer, Andrew W Jones, Helen R Flynn, Ambrosius P Snijders, Paul Nurse
S phase and mitotic onset are brought about by the action of multiple different cyclin-CDK complexes. However, it has been suggested that changes in the total level of CDK kinase activity, rather than substrate specificity, drive the temporal ordering of S phase and mitosis. Here, we present a phosphoproteomics-based systems analysis of CDK substrates in fission yeast and demonstrate that the phosphorylation of different CDK substrates can be temporally ordered during the cell cycle by a single cyclin-CDK. This is achieved by rising CDK activity and the differential sensitivity of substrates to CDK activity over a wide dynamic range. This is combined with rapid phosphorylation turnover to generate clearly resolved substrate-specific activity thresholds, which in turn ensures the appropriate ordering of downstream cell-cycle events. Comparative analysis with wild-type cells expressing multiple cyclin-CDK complexes reveals how cyclin-substrate specificity works alongside activity thresholds to fine-tune the patterns of substrate phosphorylation.