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Scientific articles

Nahaboo W, Zouak M, Askjaer P, Delattre M.

Mol Biol Cell.
2015 Apr 1. pii: mbc.E14-12-1577.

During mitotis, chromosomes are connected to a microtubule-based spindle. Current models propose that displacement of the spindle poles and/or the activity of kinetochore microtubules generate mechanical forces that segregate sister chromatids. Using laser destruction of the centrosomes during C. elegans mitosis, we show that neither of these mechanisms is necessary to achieve proper chromatid segregation. Our results strongly suggest that an outward force generated by the spindle midzone, independently of centrosomes, is sufficient to segregate chromosomes in mitotic cells. Using mutant and RNAi analysis, we show that the microtubule bundling protein SPD-1/MAP-65 and BMK-1/kinesin-5 act as a brake opposing the force generated by the spindle midzone. Conversely, we identify a novel role for two microtubule-growth and nucleation agents, Ran and CLASP, in the establishment of the centrosome-independent force during anaphase. Their involvement raises the interesting possibility that microtubule polymerization of midzone microtubules is continuously required to sustain chromosome segregation during mitosis.

Borowiak M, Nahaboo W, Reynders M, Nekolla K, Jalinot P, Hasserodt J, Rehberg M, Delattre M, Zahler S, Vollmar A, Trauner D, Thorn-Seshold O.

Cell. 2015 Jul 16;162(2):403-11. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.06.049. Epub 2015 Jul 9.

Small molecules that interfere with microtubule dynamics, such as Taxol and the Vinca alkaloids, are widely used in cell biology research and as clinical anticancer drugs. However, their activity cannot be restricted to specific target cells, which also causes severe side effects in chemotherapy. Here, we introduce the photostatins, inhibitors that can be switched on and off in vivo by visible light, to optically control microtubule dynamics. Photostatins modulate microtubule dynamics with a subsecond response time and control mitosis in living organisms with single-cell spatial precision. In longer-term applications in cell culture, photostatins are up to 250 times more cytotoxic when switched on with blue light than when kept in the dark. Therefore, photostatins are both valuable tools for cell biology, and are promising as a new class of precision chemotherapeutics whose toxicity may be spatiotemporally constrained using light.