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Understanding cell division in a minimal cell system – towards developing synthetic cells

24 November 2022

The Ring FtsZ

Cells are often described as life’s building blocks, and yet they still hold mysteries. One way to find out more is to build a cell from scratch. In these cell-like lipid vesicles, synthetic biology researchers assemble a set of proteins involved in bacterial division to mimic the process artificially – including Min proteins (highlighted in purple) and FtsZ, a protein that helps to form contractile rings (green) around dividing E. coli. Repeating patterns of Min along the vesicles, help the FtsZ ring to jostle into place, like a wedding ring wiggled onto a finger (although 1000 times smaller). The rings begin to contract around the vesicles – during cytokinesis – the final stage of cell division – this would eventually tear real cells in two. With a promising approach to artificial division, the next challenge is recreating another engineering feat of the cell, DNA replication.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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