Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A key component of cell division comes to light

01.07.2014

A breakthrough at IRB Barcelona fills a knowledge gap in understanding how the cell division apparatus, the mitotic spindle, is formed.

The in vivo visualization and monitoring of the starting points of microtubules — filaments responsible for organising the mitotic spindle — provides novel insight into the dynamic architecture of this structure.


Microtubules in the mitotic spindle (Photo: N Lecland, IRB Barcelona)

The findings will also contribute to understanding how the mitotic spindle is perturbed by drugs that target microtubules and that are used in chemotherapy.

The division of a cell in two requires the assembly of the mitotic spindle, an extremely complex structure, which is the result of the coordinated action of a multitude of proteins and a finely tuned balance of their activities. A large part of the time that a cell requires to divide is devoted to assembling the mitotic spindle, which, superficially, resembles a ball of thread with the shape of a rugby ball.

The most abundant components of the spindle are the microtubules. “By labelling the ends of thousands of these fine filaments, which are indispensable and extremely dynamic and variable, we have finally been able to follow their distribution and movement during the assembly of the mitotic spindle,” explains Jens Lüders, a cell biologist from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona). The breakthrough appeared yesterday in the advanced online edition of the journal Nature Cell Biology.

“For more than 10 years we have been able to track only the growing ends of microtubules but not the starting points. As a result, we lacked essential information in order to understand the dynamic architecture of the mitotic spindle and how it contributes to cell division,” says Lüders. Headed by the German scientist who runs the Microtubule Organisation group at IRB Barcelona, the study carries only two names, his own and that of the French researcher Nicolas Lecland, first author, who completed his PhD at IRB Barcelona through a “la Caixa” fellowship.

The scientists have demonstrated that the protein γ-tubulin localizes at the starting points of the microtubule filaments and is relatively stably associated with these structures. Using a version of γ-tubulin that carries a fluorescent label activated by laser light, the researchers were able to follow the movement of the starting points of microtubules within mitotic spindles by filming dividing human cells.

The Advanced Digital Microscopy Facility, a joint IRB Barcelona-Barcelona Science Park Facility run by the IRB physicist Julien Colombelli, has been crucial for setting up the technology required. “The success of this study is also the result of the technical know-how and cutting-edge technology available, without which we would never have been able to tackle this project,” emphasizes Lüders.

The researchers describe for the first time where most microtubules form inside the mitotic spindle, how they develop, and how their starting points are transported—with the help of three motor proteins—to opposite poles of the spindle, where they attach. Simultaneous to this process, the opposite ends of the filaments extend towards the cell centre, where they interact with chromosomes.

When the spindle is finally assembled, the microtubules pull the chromosomes to opposite poles and initiate the physical division of the cell. “We now have a more complete understanding of how the spindle assembles and functions and can use our novel marker for testing old and new hypotheses about underlying mechanisms,” says the scientist.

A new tool to study cancer

In addition, the breakthrough paves the way to “better” understanding the mode of action of drugs that inhibit microtubules and that are used in chemotherapy. These kinds of drugs impede the mitotic spindle, thus preventing cell division and interfering with tumour growth.

In spite of the many years of clinical success of these treatments against cancer, little is known about how they impair spindle architecture and function. Although these drugs are highly efficient, they do not show the specificity desirable as they also affect healthy dividing cells. In addition, they affect non-dividing cells such as neurons, in which microtubules also have important functions.

“A better understanding of the differences in spindle organisation between cancer and healthy cells and how they respond to microtubule-targeted drugs is essential in order to optimise treatments, for example by identifying more specific drugs or new targets. This tool could be useful to achieve these objectives,” states the researcher.

The study has been supported by structural funds from the Generalitat de Catalunya, a Marie Curie grant from the European Union, and the Plan Nacional, of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

Reference article:
The dynamics of microtubule minus ends in the human mitotic spindle
Nicolas Lecland and Jens Lüders
Nature Cell Biology (2014) Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncb2996

Sònia Armengou | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Cell IRB chemotherapy drugs filaments healthy microtubule microtubules movement spindle structure

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fish Oil-Diet Benefits May be Mediated by Gut Microbes
28.08.2015 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Bio-fabrication of Artificial Blood Vessels with Laser Light
28.08.2015 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

Im Focus: FIC Proteins Send Bacteria Into Hibernation

Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.

For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IPA develops prototype of intelligent care cart

It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.

Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Interstellar seeds could create oases of life

28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

An ounce of prevention: Research advances on 'scourge' of transplant wards

28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine

Fish Oil-Diet Benefits May be Mediated by Gut Microbes

28.08.2015 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>