KANSAS CITY, MOConstructing a body is like building a houseif you compromise structural integrity, the edifice can collapse. Nowhere is that clearer on a cellular level than in the case of epithelial sheets, single layers of cells that line every body cavity from the gut to mammary glands. As long as epithelial cells pack tightly and adhere to their neighbors, the cellular business of building tissue barriers and constructing ducts goes smoothly. But if epithelial cells fail to hold together, they die, or worse, produce jumbled masses resembling tumors known collectively as carcinomas.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research Associate Investigator Matt Gibson, Ph.D., and his team use simple animal systems like fruit flies and sea anemones to investigate how epithelial cells maintain order while getting jostled by cell division.
New findings from his lab published in the July 21 advance online issue of Nature demonstrate that the way the mitotic spindlethe machinery that separates chromosomes into daughter cells during cell divisionaligns relative to the surface of the cell layer is essential for the maintenance of epithelial integrity. It also hints at a surprising way that cells initiate a gene expression program seen in invasive cancers when that process goes awry.
The study employs live imaging of fruit fly imaginal discs, simple larval tissues that ultimately give rise to the adult wing. "In a culture dish, cells can divide willy nilly," says Gibson. "But in an organism cell division must be reconciled with the broader structural context. Our work is addressing how epithelial tissues maintain structural integrity, even during the extreme events of cell division."
The starting point for this work was the lab's 2011 Current Biology paper showing that when columnar cells packed in an epithelium divided, their upper (apical) end briefly ballooned out to allow the cell's nucleus to move into that region. As
|Contact: Gina Kirchweger|
Stowers Institute for Medical Research