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Newly discovered mechanism in cell division has implications for chromosome's role in cancer
Date:8/17/2009

PHILADELPHIA "A biologist, a physicist, and a nanotechnologist walk into a ..." sounds like the start of a joke. Instead, it was the start of a collaboration that has helped to decipher a critical, but so far largely unstudied, phase of how cells divide. Errors in cell division can cause mutations that lead to cancer, and this study could shed light on the role of chromosome abnormalities in uncontrolled cell replication.

The biologist in question is University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Associate Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Phong Tran, PhD. With physicist Francois Nedelec of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, and Guilhem Velve-Casquillas, PhD, a postdoc in Tran's lab who helped develop a device requiring nano-scale technology used in the study, Tran uncovered the molecular players and mechanism underlying a little-studied stage of cellular division called Anaphase B.

Anaphase B is just one part of the complex molecular choreography that is cell division. The process is akin to two children dividing up their Halloween candy: collect your candy, pile it in the middle, and divide it into two equal portions.

In cell division the creation of two daughter cells from one -- it is the doubled chromosomes that are piled in the middle to be sorted. The cell condenses the chromosomes, arranges them at the midpoint of the dividing cell, sends half to either end of the cell, and then forms a new cell membrane around each pool. Anaphase is the step in cellular division during which the chromosomes physically separate and are dragged to either end of the cell. And it's during this coming together and pulling apart of the chromosomes that such mistakes as breakages and uneven sorting can lead to cancerous mutations.

The physical structure that both organizes and facilitates the steps of Anaphase is the spindle, and it is comprised of molecular struts called microtubules, as well
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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