CRG: Research progress into cell division throws light on microtubule formation

CRG: Research progress into cell division throws light on microtubule formation

News from CRG

Scientists from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) have discovered the specific mechanisms of chromosomal microtubule formation, a process exclusive to cell division and which was hitherto unknown. A study published in the journal Current Biology, carried out by researchers from the CRG and led by Isabelle Vernos, group leader and ICREA investigator, reveals how the specific chromosomal microtubules form during mitosis.

Although the importance of some of the proteins that take part in chromosomal microtubule formation was already known, no-one understood how they interacted among themselves and other molecules and, therefore, how exactly these microtubules were originated. For this reason, their paper helps us better comprehend the process of cell division.“The study that we have presented is important because it reveals the specific mechanisms by which chromosomes promote the formation of microtubules during mitosis. Centrosomes generate microtubules throughout all the phases of the cell. However, those that are created near the chromosomes are specific to mitosis”, clarifies Sylvain Meunier, CRG researcher and one of the authors of the work.

“This research could be applied to tumour cells, but it is necessary not to forget that this is very basic science and its applications are long-term” explains Sylvain Meunier. The study represents another step forward towards the possible development of anti-tumoural treatments, precisely because it is a process that only occurs only during cell division: “Microtubules are one of the targets in anti-tumoural therapies because if there are no microtubules in the cell, it cannot divide. If it cannot divide, then the tumour cells and the tumour cannot get any bigger either. Since microtubules are also very important for the proper function of non-dividing cells, if we could specifically prevent the formation of mitotic microtubules we would have another, more selective tool to attack the dividing tumour cells” he adds.

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Scrofani et al., Microtubule Nucleation in Mitosis by a RanGTP-Dependent Protein Complex, Current Biology (2015),