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Sluggish cell division may help explain genital defects
Date:6/1/2010

lia would be controlled by Sonic and thus turned off in its absence, Seifert said. But instead, scientists found many of these key genes were still expressed in the right places, forcing the scientists to look elsewhere for the cause of the defects. The search led them to the cell cycle.

Employing a technique known as stereology, which is a way to accurately estimate the number of cells in a region by taking smaller samples -- similar to opinion polling -- scientists found decreased cell numbers in the Sonic hedgehog-depleted genitalia.

"When we began, the thought was that these cells may not be dividing at all, but the possibility existed that the cell cycle was just taking too long. This would mean that new cells could just be missing the next exquisitely timed signal required for further growth or patterning," said co-author Brandi Ormerod, a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family department of biomedical engineering with the UF College of Engineering. "Essentially we used methods that we employ frequently in neuroscience to label dividing cells in the brain, determine how many of them there are within a structure, and figure out how long the cell cycle is taking -- we just applied them to a different system during development."

Ormerod, who is also a member of the UF Genetics Institute and the UF Shands Cancer Center, said the cells in developing genitalia may be missing time-sensitive signals that trigger completion of their division when Sonic hedgehog signaling is disrupted.

"The findings point out that Sonic hedgehog may be a very robust agent that induces cell division," said Dr. Susan Mackem, head of the Regulation of Vertebrate Morphogenesis Section at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study. "Clearly there may be a role for aberrant Sonic hedgehog activity in some forms of cancer. It has been turning up in a number of contexts, which makes sense if it is regulat
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Contact: John Pastor
jdpastor@ufl.edu
352-273-5815
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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