Living things grow and thrive because their cells -- the tiny building blocks of muscle, skin, branch and flower -- are constantly duplicating themselves. In that process, gene-bearing chromosomes inside each cell must separate into identical sets to form two daughter cells. A misstep in chromosome division can result in birth defects, such as Down's syndrome; developmental defects, such as misshapen leaves; or lethal diseases, such as cancer.
In this Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, a UC Davis research group studying the intricacies of cell division provides an overview of the current science. It's a fascinating look at the emerging understanding of cellular machines that must function flawlessly millions of times during the life of an organism. The insights could have applications for plants and animals to prevent or treat disorders related to cell-division defects.
"As a cell reproduces, a machine called a spindle is constructed in the nucleus to move chromosomes. What researchers have found recently is that multiple protein-based motors coordinate to an extraordinary degree to build the spindle and also, probably, to move the chromosomes," said Jonathan Scholey, a UC Davis professor of cell biology and a co-author of the Nature review article. Scholey's co-authors on "Microtubule motors in mitosis" are David Sharp and Gregory Rogers, both postdoctoral scientists in the Scholey laboratory. In the review, the UC Davis researchers also propose a new model for how multiple motors might cooperate to build the spindle.