Exhaustive analysis reveals cell division's inner timing mechanisms

phys.org | 11/7/2018 | Staff
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Understanding how and when cells divide is important to figuring out everything from how cancers grow to why some mammals are able to get so big. A new study of E. coli cell data, published November 7 in Science Advances, sheds new light on a long-standing question about what triggers cell division.

Previous studies suggest that to divide, a cell has to divvy up chromosomes and make a full copy of its DNA for the new cell, and must also form a septum, or wall, to separate the new cell from the old one. But which process is the main trigger for cell division? One existing model suggests that when a cell divides depends primarily on when DNA replication is complete, while another suggests that septum formation is the key catalyst. The new analysis, presented by scientists at the Santa Fe Institute, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, Sorbonne University in France, the IFOM at the University of Milan in Italy, and other universities suggests the answer is that both need to happen concurrently.

Process - Cell - Jacopo - Grilli - Physicist

"There is not a unique process that determines when the cell divides," says Jacopo Grilli, a biological physicist with the Santa Fe Institute, who co-authored the study.

"What we observed following the cells one by one is in fact a process similar to the 'just in time' supply chain, a process in which the arrival times of the different materials in an [automobile] production line are coordinated with the moment in which they are needed, and the longest arrival time determines the actual speed with which the line proceeds," explains co-author Gabriele Micali of ETH Zurich. "This represents a change in the conceptual framework that puts this crucial passage of the cell cycle re-read in a new perspective."

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