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Stem-cell sentry sounds the alarm to maintain balance between cancer and aging, U-M researchers find
Date:10/15/2008

mammal studies of the checkpoint have been undertaken, so talk of potential human applications is highly speculative.

In fruit flies, the checkpoint monitors germ-line stem cells as they're about to divide. It can sense problems that would derail the division process, which is called mitosis.

Under normal conditions, adult stem-cell division creates one new stem cell and one cell committed to develop into a specific tissue type such as a skin cell, a blood cell or, in this case, a sperm cell. That form of mitosis is called asymmetric division, and it's exactly what stem cells need to maintain a healthy balance between uncommitted and committed cells.

Cell division is controlled in part by the location of a pair of cellular components called centrosomes. They provide the framework that helps direct how chromosomes are distributed between daughter cells during mitosis.

Normally, centrosomes in a dividing stem cell remain perpendicular to an adjoining messenger cell called the hub. Yamashita and her colleagues found that improper orientation of the centrosomes disrupts the mitotic machinery, steering it on a course toward stem-cell over-proliferation and cancer.

The checkpoint mechanism senses when centrosomes are misaligned, then sounds the alarm that stops cell division.

By preventing faulty cell division, the checkpoint helps ward off cancer. But a balance must be struck: If the checkpoint mechanism slows cell division to a trickle, the resulting shortage of new cells will accelerate tissue aging.

"It's a double-edged sword, and both outcomes are bad," she said. "One path leads to cancer and the other leads to aging. And we haven't found a way to avoid aging without getting cancer."


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Contact: Jim Erickson
ericksn@umich.edu
734-647-1842
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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