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Web Date: March 15, 2012

Splitting Cells In Two

Chemical Biology: Researchers track down the biochemical controls for cell division’s last step
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: cell division
When cells split in two, a protein called CHMP4C brakes the separation until the cell can double check that chromosomes have been properly segregated to the two daughter cells.
Credit: Science

Before a cell divides in two, it must ensure that the new daughter cell possesses correctly copied DNA as well as essential organelles and cytoplasm. Researchers have now pinpointed the protein that acts as a checkpoint before the final split is allowed to occur (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.12171180).

In addition to illuminating how the essential biological process of cell division is controlled, the discovery may also provide insights into cancer, a disease in which cell division occurs unchecked.

The final physical separation of cells is orchestrated by a complex of about seven or eight proteins, says Juan Martin-Serrano of King’s College London School of Medicine, in England. His team found that when one of the proteins (called CHMP4C) in this complex is phosphorylated, the final separation of two cells is stalled. Cells use this checkpoint as an opportunity to ensure chromosome segregation has taken place without error, he adds.

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PUTTING ON THE BRAKES
This fluorescence image shows how the protein CHMP4C (lime green) acts as a checkpoint in the final stages of cell division.
Credit: Science
20120315lnp1-abscission
 
PUTTING ON THE BRAKES
This fluorescence image shows how the protein CHMP4C (lime green) acts as a checkpoint in the final stages of cell division.
Credit: Science

“This is quite a surprising finding,” comments Harald Stenmark, a biochemist at Oslo University Hospital, in Norway. Researchers in the field had thought CHMP4C was a positive regulator—that is, a green light forward, Stenmark explains, but “it turns out that CHMP4C does the opposite—it’s actually a brake.”

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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