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UMass Amherst cell biologists identify new protein key to asymmetric cell division
Date:11/8/2012

AMHERST, Mass. Recently biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by Wei-lih Lee have identified a new molecular player in asymmetric cell division, a regulatory protein named She1 whose role in chromosome- and spindle positioning wasn't known before. Asymmetric cell division is important in the self-renewal of stem cells and because it ensures that daughter cells have different fates and functions.

When a fertilized egg develops in a fruit fly or a human being, the number of asymmetric cell divisions must be precisely balanced by symmetric cell divisions, Lee explains. He has spent years studying the cell's molecular engine called dynein, which in many cases controls how embryos accomplish asymmetric cell division, though exactly how is not completely understood.

Now, Lee and postdoctoral researcher Steven Markus, with undergraduate Katelyn Kalutkiewicz, in experiments supported by the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, have identified She 1 as the first known regulator of asymmetric cell division that inhibits the dynein engine, but surprisingly also promotes asymmetric division. Their work is described in an early online edition of Current Biology and will appear in the December 4 print edition.

Working with common yeast, Lee explains, "With this study, we've looked deeper than ever before into dynein and its role in asymmetric cell division. This is a highly conserved process that's very important to human development, to tissue differentiation and the self-renewing process of stem cells. Many had hypothesized that dynein influences the outcome of the division by pulling on the mitotic spindle, the intricate machine responsible for separating chromosomes. How dynein knows which direction to pull the spindle had become the holy grail of this research."

When a cell is ready to divide asymmetrically, dynein molecules move to its outer wall in opposite directions by riding along
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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