Metaphase in a human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) cell. Chromosomes (red), microtubules (green).
If you can imagine identical twin sisters at rest, their breath drawing them subtly together and apart, who somehow latch onto ropes that pull them to opposite sides of the bed — you can imagine what happens to a chromosome in the dividing cell.
Understanding the forces that drive chromosome segregation — a crucial aspect of human development and some diseases, including cancer — is the goal of an international group of researchers who collaborate each summer at the MBL.
In a paper recently published in the Journal of Cell Biology, the group describes newly discovered interactions between sister kinetochores — the protein bundles at the contact point between the two identical strands of a chromosome — and microtubules, the “ropes” that attach to the kinetochores to pull the strands apart.
To do this, the group developed a novel pipeline for preparing and photographing dividing human cells, as well as computational image analysis to quantify the interplay of sister kinetochores in three dimensions.
“We believe we have developed new methods and gained insights that simply aren’t available anywhere else. We couldn’t have done this work anywhere except at the MBL,” says Jason Swedlow, a professor at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
Swedlow’s MBL collaborators on this work, which will continue in future summers, include scientists from the laboratories of Prof. Gaudenz Danuser (Harvard Medical School), Dr. Patrick Meraldi (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), and Dr. Andrew McAinsh (Marie Curie Research Institute, England). The group is known as the MBL Kinetochore Consortium.
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