Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers discover pathway to cell size, division

01.08.2007
Cut and run

Organisms precisely regulate cell size to ensure that daughter cells have sufficient cellular material to thrive or to create specific cell types: a tiny sperm versus a gargantuan egg for example. In single-celled organisms such as yeast and bacteria, nutrient availability is the primary determinant of cell size. In animal cells, size is controlled in large part by a molecule that senses the blood sugar-dependent hormone insulin.

Petra Levin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, and her laboratory have recently identified a trio of enzymes that act in concert to link nutrient availability to cell size in the soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis.

Levin and her lab are looking into the factors that control the timing and position of cell division in B. subtilis. B. subtilis serves as the model system for a large family of bacteria that includes the causative agents of several important diseases, including anthrax and botulism. By learning how these simple organisms regulate division, she hopes to better understand why this process goes awry in cancer cells resulting in uncontrolled growth and aberrant division.

... more about:
»FtsZ »divide »pathway »subtilis

A primary focus of the Levin lab's research is a protein called FtsZ. FtsZ is an ancestor of tubulin, the protein that is responsible for distributing duplicated chromosomes between dividing human cells. In bacteria, FtsZ forms a ring at the future division site. The FtsZ ring then recruits all other components necessary for cell division and serves as the scaffolding for the entire division process.

The factors that regulate FtsZ ring formation determine when and where the cell is going to divide. "Theoretically a cell could divide anywhere and at anytime," said Brad Weart, a graduate student in Levin's lab. "The cell has to very precisely restrain that process so that it only happens when and where the cell wants it to happen."

In their most recent paper, published in the July 27, 2007 issue of Cell, Weart et al. identified a metabolic sensor that links cell division and cell size in B. subtilis with nutritional availability. This sensor is comprised of a three enzyme pathway that was previously shown to be involved in synthesizing a modified component of the cell membrane. The Levin lab's data indicates the pathway also has a major role in cell division. "So far this has been the only pathway that's been identified in bacteria that directly regulates cell size," says Levin.

Typically, cells in nutrient-rich environments grow bigger than cells in nutrient-poor environments. The Levin lab determined that mutations in genes encoding the three enzymes resulted in cells that were small even when they were in a nutrient-rich environment. "Basically, the cells had no way to tell the division apparatus to wait until they've reached the size they should be. The cells would divide when they were still very short," said Levin. "It was almost as if they were growing in really great media but they didn't know it."

Knowing when to divide

Further work indicated that the mutation perturbed FtsZ ring formation. In the cell, FtsZ exists in a balance between its unassembled and assembled state. The enzyme trio regulated FtsZ ring formation by changing this balance — pushing FtsZ towards its unassembled state when the cells were growing in nutrient-rich conditions, thereby delaying cell division and increasing cell size.

All three enzymes in the pathway are sensitive to glucose levels, and the pathway is therefore well suited to communicating nutritional information directly to the cell's division apparatus. In nutrient-poor conditions the enzymes no longer inhibit FtsZ assembly, allowing the FtsZ ring to form when the cells are still small, resulting in the formation of smaller daughter cells. The third enzyme in the pathway, UgtP, physically interacts with FtsZ to prevent ring formation. UgtP responds to low levels of glucose (nutrient-poor conditions) by becoming unstable and forming what appear to be inactive aggregates.

Disrupting this pathway leads to defects in chromosome segregation. A cell that is too small is unable to effectively move its DNA away from the division site and the resultant daughter cells frequently do not contain all the genetic material that they should. By coordinating cell size with growth rate, cells are able to maintain proper distribution of DNA.

This work is also something of a cautionary tale about the limitations of genome sequencing. "More and more often we are finding that metabolic enzymes have more than one function," said Levin, "There is no hint from their sequence that they have other activities so you really need to delve deeper and apply different methods to identify them."

Levin notes that her research is uncovering just the "tip of the iceberg" in the field of cell size control, but identifying genes such as ugtP helps Levin and other researchers get a better handle on precisely what determine how big a cell will be.

Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

Further reports about: FtsZ divide pathway subtilis

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

nachricht Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>