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April 2008 -- A biological process taught to every student studying biology has just
become a little more complicated thanks to a new discovery. Scientists
from the University of Bath have found that a protein called RASSF7 is
essential for mitosis, the process by which a cell divides in two.
In research published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell,
the scientists have shown that the protein is essential for building
the microtubules that allow the two halves of the cell to slide apart.
“What makes mitosis so interesting is that it is one of the
biological processes that everyone remembers from their days at
school,” said Dr Andrew Chalmers from the University’s Department of
Biology & Biochemistry.
“As well as being one of Nature’s most important processes, our
interest in mitosis stems from the fact that if you want to kill cancer
cells, then stopping them from dividing is a useful way of doing this.
“Several cancer treatments block cell division by targeting
microtubules, Taxol is a well known example. It is even possible that
RASSF7 might be a future drug target”.
During the different phases of mitosis the pairs of chromosomes
within the cell condense and attach to microtubule fibres that pull the
sister chromatids to opposite sides of the cell.
The cell then divides in cytokinesis, to produce two identical daughter cells.
RASSF7 is the latest of a battery of proteins involved in managing
the complex process of mitosis. “During mitosis, the chromosomes
containing the DNA are pulled apart in two halves by an array of
microtubules centred on the centrosomes,” said Dr Chalmers.
“Without the RASSF7 protein, the microtubules do not develop
properly and cell division is halted. “This is the first functional
study of this protein, and we hope to extend our knowledge of how it
works in the future.”
The work was carried out in Dr Chalmers laboratory by Dr Victoria
Sherwood and two final year undergraduate project students from the
University, Ria Manbodh and Carol Sheppard.
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council.
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