Washington: Researchers have shown that cells demonstrate remarkable flexibility and versatility when it comes to how they divide - a finding with potential links to the underlying causes of many cancers.
The study describes a number of routes to the formation of a microtubule spindle - the tracks along which DNA moves when a cell divides in order to make two genetically identical cells.
The innovative research not only describes how the cell can use each pathway in a complementary way, but also that removal of one pathway leads to the cell increasing its use of the others. The researchers also identified that a central molecular complex - Augmin - was needed for all of these routes.
Biosciences researchers Dr. James Wakefield, PhD student Daniel Hayward and Experimental Officer in Image Analysis, Dr. Jeremy Metz, were the first to identify that each of four pathways of spindle formation could occur in fruit fly embryos.
It was earlier thought that, in order for chromosomes - packages containing DNA - to line up and be correctly separated, microtubules have to extend from specific microtubule-organising centres in the cell, called centrosomes.
However, this study found that microtubules could additionally develop from the chromosomes themselves, or at arbitrary sites throughout the main body of the cell, if the centrosomes were missing.
All of these routes to spindle formation appeared to be dependent on Augmin - a protein complex responsible for amplifying the number of microtubules in the cell.
The study has been published in journal Developmental Cell .