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

microtubules "tracks" and anchoring in the wall like tent stakes. Until Lee and colleagues' recent discovery of She1's role, biologists believed dynein acted alone to direct the spindle apparatus between them, pulling chromosomes apart like taffy to form two daughter cells. They thought She1 seemed to be involved in dynein distribution, as it was often observed on the microtubule tracks along which dynein draws the spindle apparatus.

To explore She1's secrets, Lee and his team used Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, which allows them to visualize single molecules at high resolution. They can watch the dynein engine as it powers along the microtubule tracks.

"We were curious," Lee notes. "We knew She1 was present but we didn't know why. So we decided to do some biochemistry with it in the microscope. Steven purified the protein and designed experiments to see if it interacted with the motor protein. And it did."

In fact, the UMass Amherst research team found that She1 interacts with dynein only when the motor protein is on the microtubule cable and the motor is moving on the track, never elsewhere. "We observed them colliding on the track, then binding. The new concept is that these microtubules become different," Lee adds. "Discovering that She1 can block dynein's motoring totally changed our thinking about how the spindle is being pulled in the cell."

The researchers were surprised because observing its behavior, one would predict that She1 inhibits asymmetric division by blocking dynein. It turns out that is not true. Instead, She1 actively promotes asymmetric cell division by changing its local underlying microtubules. Tracks containing She1 no longer permit dynein to pass.

It's a subtle difference, Lee acknowledges, but important. He clarifies, "We think the microtubule tracks might be 'licensed,' so to speak, by She1. The idea had been that the engine was always 'on' and pulling. However,
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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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