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A unique arrangement for egg cell division

They predetermine the bipolar structure of the spindle that is essential to extrude exactly half of the chromosomes outside of the egg. For a long time we did not understand how mammalian oocytes could assemble a bipolar spindle without such centrosomes.

Tracking spindle assembly over time with a high resolution microscope in live mouse oocytes, Ellenberg and his PhD student Melina Schuh found that the missing centrosomes are replaced by a flexible system of many small microtubule organising centres (MTOCs) in oocytes. Like centrosomes, these MTOCs serve as platforms from which microtubules grow, but they are not permanent structures. MTOCs only form when the division is about to start and accumulate in the cells centre. There, the around 80 individual MTOCs start interacting in a tug-of-war of pulling and pushing each other. This ultimately leads to a self-organized spindle with two poles in which all chromosomes are accurately aligned for the subsequent chromosome elimination.

Assembling a spindle from so many centres takes very long and involves a lot of coordination in space and time, says Melina Schuh, who carried out the research in Ellenbergs lab, if the spindle fails to accurately segregate the chromosomes this results in diseases like Down syndrome and infertility. It is therefore very important that we now understand how this crucial division at the beginning of life is orchestrated.


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Contact: Lena Raditsch
lena.raditsch@embl.de
49-622-138-78125
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
9-Aug-2007


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