Scientists using high-powered microscopes have made a stunning observation of the architecture within a cell and identified for the first time how the architecture changes during the formation of gametes, also known as sex cells, in order to successfully complete the process.
The findings by the international team led by the University of Leicester could impact on the treatment of disorders caused by a misregulation of cellular structures called microtubules. These disorders include Down's Syndrome, lissencephaly (a brain formation disorder) or cancer.
Researching yeast cells, the scientists expect that the information obtained will bring novel insights into the basic mechanisms of cellular regulation, which may be applicable to higher organisms including humans.
The study led by Dr. Kayoko Tanaka of the Department of Biochemistry focused on microtubules fibrous structures that play essential roles in a cell. Dr Tanaka had a BBSRC New Investigator award between 2008-2011 to conduct this research which is published in Current Biology.
By exploiting yeast cells, the researchers have discovered for the first time the precise structure adopted by microtubules, which play a vital role in the process of gamete formation, and identified the protein responsible for creating the structure. They further found that the protein needs to be regulated in order to complete gamete formation, failure of which may lead to production of gametes with the wrong number of chromosomes. In humans, these may contribute to disorders such as Down's Syndrome that result from chromosomal abnormalities.
With the use of high-powered fluorescent and confocal microscopes at the University of Leicester, as well as electron microscopes at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Heidelberg, Dr Tanaka and her team were for the first time able to 'visualise' the architecture of the microtubules in the yeast cell undergoing gamete formation.
|Contact: Dr. Kayoko Tanaka |
University of Leicester