Cell division in silico

In order to correctly divide, cells have to move all their chromosomes at the center of the cell, a process known as congression. This task is performed by the combined action of molecular motors and randomly growing and shrinking microtubules. Chromosomes must first be captured by growing microtubules and transported by motors using the same microtubules as tracks. Hence coherent motion occurs as a result of a large collection of random and deterministic dynamical events. Understanding this process is important since a failure in chromosome segregation can lead to chromosomal instability one of the hallmarks of cancer. In a paper published on PLoS One, Caterina La Porta and Stefano Zapperi from CC&B, with Zsolt Bertalan and Zoe Budrikis from the ISI Foundation, describe this complex process in a three dimensional computational model involving thousands of microtubules. The results show that coherent and robust chromosome congression can only happen if the total number of microtubules is neither too small, nor too large. The present results allow for a coherent interpretation a variety of biological factors already associated in the past with chromosomal instability and related pathological conditions.

Zsolt Bertalan, Zoe Budrikis, Caterina A. M. La Porta, Stefano Zapperi
Role of the Number of Microtubules in Chromosome Segregation during Cell Division
PLoS One, 10, e0141305 (2015)
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published on 10/29/2015