Centrosome inheritance in asymmetric cell division - Victoria Menendez-Benito
We are interested in understanding how asymmetric cell division works at the molecular level. By dividing asymmetrically, a cell can produce two daughter cells with different phenotypes from a common genetic blueprint.
Every multicellular organism is generated from a single cell that undergoes a series of asymmetric cell divisions. In addition, many stem cells continue dividing asymmetrically throughout life. At each division, they produce two cells: one is a renewed copy of the stem cell; the other one is committed to differentiation. This keeps the number of stem cells under control, which is essential to prevent cancer and tissue degeneration. Despite its importance, the mechanisms controlling asymmetric cell division are poorly understood.
Recent studies have shown that centrosomes have an unexpected new role in asymmetric cell division. Before a cell divides, the single interphase centrosome duplicates to form the two poles of the mitotic spindle. This duplication is semi-conservative and results in two centrosomes (mother and daughter) that differ in age, composition and structure. Interestingly, the mother and daughter centrosomes are non-randomly inherited in some stem cells, and this process is essential to endow stemness to one of the sibling cells. These observations set the stage for our studies.
Our goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms of centrosome inheritance and its role in asymmetric cell division. To this end, we are developing unique tools to visualize and separate mother and daughter centrosomes for biochemical analyses. Combining these tools with proteomic, genetic, and microscopy approaches; and using budding yeast and human cell lines as model organisms, we are addressing three key questions:
- How do cells distinguish between mother and daughter centrosomes?
- What are the key players in centrosome inheritance?
- Do the mother and/or the daughter centrosome carry biological information?
We are engaged in exploratory projects that have the potential to break new ground and advance our understanding of asymmetric cell division. At the lab, we are driven by the core values of mentorship, collaboration, openness and a general positive attitude.