A Research Blog

aPKC (an apical protein in red), Mira (a basal protein in green) and DNA (in blue) were labeled in wild-type neural stem cells. (Image credit: Yingjie Zhang, Duke-NUS Medical School)

In this biobytes podcast, Duke-NUS’ very own Assoc Prof Wang Hongyan discusses her recent publication in Journal of Cell Biology that reports the role of ADP ribosylation factor like 2 (arl2) and mini spindles (msps) genes in asymmetric cell division.

Wang is Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Progamme at Duke-NUS Medical School. Her lab studies asymmetric cell division of neuroblasts in fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster. A cell undergoing asymmetric division gives rise to two daughter cells with differing cell fates, size and contents. In neuroblasts, asymmetric cell division produces a neuroblast and a ganglion mother cell, which goes on to differentiate into different neuronal cell types.

Asymmetric cell division ensures self-renewal of neuroblasts, while also allowing for the production of the different neuronal cell types that make up the fruit fly’s nervous system.

Two essential events that direct asymmetric cell division are the orientation of the mitotic spindles, and the localization of the proteins to different parts of the cell membrane. Dysfunction of asymmetric cell division may lead to cell overgrowth, which has been associated with tumorigenesis and cancer.

Assoc Prof Wang HongyanWang’s lab has uncovered the essential role arl2 plays in asymmetric cell division. Neuroblasts with loss of arl2 function show loss of protein localization at the cell membrane, and shortened mitotic spindles that are randomly oriented. This results in the symmetric cell division of neuroblasts, and its subsequent overgrowth. In addition, the introduction of msps, another regulator of microtubule growth, to arl2-deficient neuroblasts was able to rescue the phenotype observed.

These findings indicate that arl2 is critical in regulating the growth of microtubules, the main component of mitotic spindles, and that msps is likely downstream to arl2 in regulating microtubule growth. Next, Wang plans to investigate the other proteins that regulate microtubule growth and their role in asymmetric cell division.

The second part of the podcast contain other highlights from the 14 March 2016 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology.

Listen to the podcast here, or read Wang’s publication for more details.

This research is supported by the Ministry of Education – Singapore (tier 2 MOE2014-T2-1-090), Duke-NUS Research Program funded by A*STAR and Ministry of Health, Singapore, March of Dimes Foundation (#1-FY07-443), Duke University Undergraduate Research Support, European Research Council grant AdG 2011 294603, the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad grants BFU2015-66304 and BFU2014-52125-REDT-CellSYS, and the Generalitat de Catalunya Suport a Grups de Recerca Agaur 2014 100.


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