An elevated level of nucleophosmin (NPM) is often found in actively proliferative cells including human tumors. To identify the regulatory role for NPM phosphorylation in proliferation and cell cycle control, a series of mutants targeting the consensus cyclin-dependent kinase (CKD) phosphorylation sites was created to mimic or abrogate either single-site or multi-site phosphorylation. Cells expressing the phosphomimetic NPM mutants showed enhanced proliferation and G2/M cell-cycle transition; whereas nonphosphorylatable mutants induced G2/M cell-cycle arrest. Simultaneous inactivation of two CKD phosphorylation sites at Ser10 and Ser70 (S10A/S70A, NPM-AA) induced phosphorylation of Cdk1 at Tyr15 (Cdc2Tyr15) and increased cytoplasmic accumulation of Cdc25C. Strikingly, stress-induced Cdk1Tyr15 and Cdc25C sequestration were completely suppressed by expression of a double phosphomimetic NPM mutant (S10E/S70E, NPM-EE). Further analysis revealed that phosphorylation of NPM at both Ser10 and Ser70 sites were required for proper interaction between Cdk1 and Cdc25C in mitotic cells. Moreover, the NPM-EE mutant directly bound to Cdc25C and prevented phosphorylation of Cdc25C at Ser216 during mitosis. Finally, NPM-EE overrided stress-induced G2/M arrest, increased peripheral-blood blasts and splenomegaly in a NOD/SCID xenograft model, and promoted leukemia development in Fanconi mouse hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. Thus, these findings reveal a novel function of NPM on regulation of cell-cycle progression, in which Cdk1-dependent phosphorylation of NPM controls cell-cycle progression at G2/M transition through modulation of Cdc25C activity.

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