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New mechanism of cell division caused by protein waves discovered

In an international collaborative project, researchers from the UPC Physics Department and the University of Potsdam (Germany) have identified a new form of cell division caused by protein waves. A discovery that supposes new applications in the field of synthetic biology and can serve as a paradigm to implement a self-organized proliferation strategy in artificial cells.
New mechanism  of cell division caused by protein waves discovered
Sequence of microscopy images of a cell division by protein waves. Protein waves are green in color and move in the opposite direction, thus dividing the cell into two daughter cells

The researchers of the  research group in Comptational Biology and Complex Systems  (BIOCOM-SC) of the Physics Department of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) Sergio Alonso and Francesc Font - currently a researcher at the Centre de Recerca Matemàtica -, in collaboration with Scientists from the Biophysics group of the University de Potsdam (Germany) have discovered a new form of cell division that is triggered by protein waves within cells. The study has recently been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

According to the study authors, this new form of cell division could be applied in the field of synthetic biology. And there is currently a lot of effort being put into producing simple artificial models of cells in the laboratory to study the basic units that make up life, and cell division by protein waves could be a promising alternative for simple cell models.

 

The biophysicists team of the Universitat ofPotsdam has observed, with microscopic techniques, dynamic changes in the cytoskeleton to giant cells of the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. Under certain conditions, accumulations of cyto-skeletal proteins can move through the cell in a waveform. If this protein wave reaches the edge of the cell, it pushes the membrane around the cell out. This deformation is getting stronger and stronger and leads, finally, to a daughter cell separating itself from the rest of the giant cell, with the characteristic measure of the wave that causes the division.

For its part, the team of researchers from the Departament of Physics of the UPC has developed a computer model that reconstructs this cell division caused by protein waves in simulated cells. In this way, a better understanding of the prerequisites necessary to generate this process can be obtained.

This new cell division mechanism opens the door to possible applications in synthetic biology - in the design and construction of artificially produced cells - and can serve as the basis for implementing a self-organized proliferation strategy in artificial cells.

More information in:

Flemming, S., Font, F., Alonso, S., Beta, C., How cortical waves drive fission of motile cells. PNAS (2020)

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