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Ludwig researchers find key machinery of cell division also helps build neurons

February 28, 2019, New York—Researchers at the San Diego Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have identified an entirely new mechanism that supports the development of the nervous system during embryogenesis.

The study, led by Ludwig San Diego Member Arshad Desai and published in the current issue of Developmental Cell, focused on the dynamic linking of protein cables known as microtubules to kinetochores—protein machines built on a defined region in the middle of chromosomes known as the centromere. Centromeres assemble kinetochores during cell division and the complex, in cooperation with microtubules, drives a copy of each chromosome to opposite poles of the dividing cell, ensuring that its daughters get an equal complement of all chromosomes.

In their new paper, Desai and colleagues report that the evolutionarily ancient kinetochore-microtubule coupling machine, called the KMN network, also plays a critical role in the formation of neurons in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans.

“We’ve found molecular similarity between the movement of chromosomes in dividing cells and the formation of neuronal projections, both of which involve microtubule polymers that dynamically grow and shorten,” said Desai, adding that the findings may help illuminate the underlying pathology of some neurological conditions.

The UC San Diego release from which this summary is derived can be found here.


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