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European researchers tackle mitosis

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) join forces with top scientists from eleven research institutes in Austria, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom for "MitoCheck" the largest integrated research project on cell cycle control within the European Commission's 6th Framework Programme (FP6). The partners will receive an 8.5 million Euro grant to address a fundamental question: How is cell division regulated?

Cell division (or "mitosis") is one of the key processes of life. Mistakes during mitosis can cause infertility and mental retardation, and can contribute to cancer. For the most part, mitosis is still poorly understood. Scientists do know that protein kinases a certain type of enzyme play a key role, but researchers don't know how these enzymes bring about the important changes in cells that cause them to divide. To understand cell division in a comprehensive manner, the MitoCheck consortium of European scientists will systematically hunt for all genes that are required for division and then check the products of these genes to see how they are regulated by mitotic kinases.

"This project is vital to understanding one of the most basic processes of life - making two cells out of one. Here at EMBL, we will identify which genes are required for mitosis by suppressing them gene-by-gene in live human cells and testing whether they can still divide afterwards," notes Jan Ellenberg, EMBL Group Leader and co-initiator of the MitoCheck project.

To achieve this, EMBL scientists use a method called "RNA interference," where RNA molecules can target and silence specific genes involved in mitosis. Another MitoCheck partner, the Max-Planck Institute of Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden will provide a vast library of these molecules. About 20,000 genes will be suppressed one-by-one and EMBL researchers will make movies of the cells undergoing division, using sophisticated microscopes developed by Rainer Pepperk
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Contact: Trista Dawson
dawson@embl.de
49-622-138-7452
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
15-Jul-2004


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