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'Parent' cells reset the cell division clock
Date:5/8/2014

that more accurately predicts how a population of cells has divided," Dr Markham said.

"Imagine the cell cycle as an elastic band, representing the time a cell takes to divide. Each phase of the cell cycle is in a fixed place on the elastic band, but the band itself can stretch or shrink, effectively elongating or shortening the time taken for each phase of the cycle."

Professor Hodgkin said the study not only provided a better model for how cells divided, it also provided clues as to why there was variability in cell cycle times across a group of the same cell type. "The old model assumed the second phase of cell division took a fixed amount of time, with all the variability coming from the first phase," he said. "It used a concept called 'transition probability' to predict how a population of cells may behave, but it couldn't be applied individual cells.

"Our study revealed that when a cell divides, its two 'daughter' cells share the same division time as each other, but this time is different from their 'parent'. From this we can conclude that cell division times are programmed by the parent cell when preparing to divide, but that time is not carried across generations. While we don't yet understand exactly how it is set, this internal timing mechanism has replaced the external 'transition probability' used in the old model."

Professor Hodgkin said although the study provided a better understanding of fundamental science, it would also have practical applications, for example in investigating how immune cells responded to infections. "Our model will allow researchers to take fewer, simpler measurements to complete the picture of how B cells and T cells have divided," Professor Hodgkin said. "However more work is still needed to determine whether these mechanisms are the same in other types of cells in the body, such as cancer cells."


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Contact: Alan Gill
gill.a@wehi.edu.au
61-393-452-719
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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