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How molecular muscles help cells divide
Date:12/14/2007

Pollard. This is important because it shows for the first time how the contractile machinery assembles and how all the pieces get to the right place to get the job done.

Time-lapse imaging and computer modeling demonstrated that cells undergoing mitosis set up small clusters of proteins, or nodes, on the inside of the cell membrane around the equator of the cell. Proteins in these nodes begin to put out a small number of filaments composed of the protein actin. The filaments grow in random directions until they encounter another node, where myosin motors in the contacted node pull on the actin filament, bringing the two nodes together.

However, the researchers found that each connection is broken in about 20 seconds. Releasing the connections and initiating subsequent rounds of search and capture appears essential to the assembly process, say the scientists. The assembly involves many episodes of attractions between pairs of nodes proceeding in parallel. Eventually the nodes form into a condensed contractile ring around the equator, ready to pinch the mother into two daughters at a later stage.

A novel and important aspect of this work was that we used computer simulations at every step to test what is feasible physically and to guide our experiments, said author Ben OShaughnessy, professor of chemical engineering at Columbia. The simulations show that cells use reaction rates that are nearly ideal to make this mechanism work on the time scale of the events in the cells.

Future work will involve testing the concepts learned from fission yeast in other cells to learn if the mechanism is universal, said Pollard. Since other cells, including human cells, depend on similar proteins for cytokinesis [cell division], it is entirely possible that they use the same strategy.


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Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
janet.emanuel@yale.edu
203-432-2157
Yale University  
Source:Eurekalert

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