Control from Without

Editor's Choice in Developmental Biology

By | May 25, 2011


The paper

X. Xu, B.E. Vogel, “A secreted protein promotes cleavage furrow maturation during cytokinesis,” Curr Biol, 21:114-19, 2011. Free F1000 Evaluation

The finding

Successful cell division is critical to the survival of all life and depends on the coordinated actions of dozens of proteins. Bruce Vogel, at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, has shown for the first time that a protein secreted to the outside of the cell, hemicentin, is essential for cell division in the gonads of nematode worms and in the developing mouse embryo.

The history

Vogel cloned the hemicentin gene ten years ago, giving it that name in part because the protein, secreted by muscle and gonad cells, was frequently associated with membrane-spanning areas called hemidesmosomes, where fibrous keratins inside the cell create attachment points with the extracellular matrix outside.

The surprise

Because of this, Vogel assumed hemicentin was important for anchoring tissues to the substratum. But when he and Xuehong Xu knocked down hemicentin expression in mouse embryos, Vogel says, they instead saw that although cell division initiated, and a cleavage furrow started to form, it failed to complete. “I was shocked to find that the membranes actually were formed properly but then decomposed as I was watching them,” says Vogel. F1000 member David Stephens was intrigued. “It changes the way I think about things,” he says.

The future

How hemicentin works to signal the cell-division machinery is what Vogel’s group is focusing on now. He wants to identify the receptor for this protein and the signals it initiates inside the cell.

F1000 evaluators: M. Morrissey & D. Sherwood (Duke University), M. Labousse (CNRS, France), A. Chisholm (UCSD), D. Stephens (Univ of Bristol)


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