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Optogenetics demonstrate the role of protein PRC1 in orderly cell division

19 July 2021

Bridging the Divide

A dividing human cell like this one must split its DNA exactly in half – pairs of chromosomes are carefully aligned in rows (partially highlighted in blue), then pulled apart by tiny rope-like strictures called spindles. Errors in this tiny tug-of-war risk developmental problems and disease. Here scientists explore the molecular machinery involved, removing a key protein called PRC1 (purple) with a blast of light. This speedy optogenetic approach allows them to watch what happens next. PRC1 plays an important part in bridging fibres, which span the gap between the spindles on either side, acting as guides for perfect alignment. With PRC1 removed (the purple structures fading) the alignment of the chromosomes wobbles, until the light switches off and PRC1 recovers. Researchers can now build on this work, using optogenetics to tease apart more machinery inside cells, hopefully yielding targets for targeting mitosis in cancerous cells.

Written by John Ankers

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