Molecular Mechanisms of Cell Division

In A Nutshell

Cellular form and function is a balance between growth and division. Division of cellular constituents into two compartments requires tight coordination and dynamic control between a myriad of cellular processes. Critical to division is the regulated reorganisation of cellular architecture. The mitotic spindle that separates the chromosomes into two equal sets and a membrane tethered contractile ring cleaving the cytoplasm ensures that two identical daughter copies are produced at the end of each round of division.

The aim of our group is to investigate how such reorganisation of cytoskeletal elements occur and what happens when it doesn't. In particular, we are interested in understanding how cytokinesis is carried out by the cell, its regulation and consequences of failure. Constriction of an elaborately arranged, dynamic structure poses serious challenges to its management. How and where it is assembled will decide the sizes of the daughter copies, a parameter of pivotal importance to cells particularly in terms of its fate. The timing and coordination of constriction ensures that daughter cells receive equal copies of chromosomes before they cleave. Therefore, placing and making a cut is a critical task failure of which has grim consequences of aneuploidy, developmental defect and cancer. Unsurprisingly, this inevitable importance of the phenomenon also means it is remarkably conserved across life forms.

As a stepping stone we use fission yeast as a simple tool to gain critical insight into this complex process with opportunity to test it in mammalian cells. Much of our understanding requires advanced confocal and super-resolution microscopy of live cells with significant contribution of micropatterning tools. Because of the complexity and redundancy of the process, we rely heavily on clever genetic tools to generate, control and manipulate the cellular environment. With emphasis on understanding the phenomenon in vivo, the lab believes in reconstituting and predicting the nature of outcomes when things go wrong. Using in vitro reconstitution approaches hand in hand with computational modelling from our collaborators, we aim to understand the how's and why's of cell division.