The mitotic checkpoint evolved to prevent cell division when chromosomes have not established connections with the chromosome segregation machinery. Many of the fundamental molecular principles that underlie the checkpoint, its spatiotemporal activation, and its timely inactivation have been uncovered. Most of these are conserved in eukaryotes, but important differences between species exist. Here we review current concepts of mitotic checkpoint activation and silencing. Guided by studies in model organisms and our phylogenomics analysis of checkpoint constituents and their functional domains and motifs, we highlight ancient and taxa-specific aspects of the core checkpoint modules in the context of mitotic checkpoint function.
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