New control of cell division discovered
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IMAGE: When the enzyme DYRK3 is inhibited, mitotic defects are resulting (red: droplets, green: spindle, blue: DNA). view more 

Credit: Arpan Rai, UZH

As every cook has experienced: When balsamic vinegar and olive oil are mixed, both liquids separate. Round vinegar drops form, which then float on the surface of the oil. In physical terms, this constitutes the formation of two phases in the liquid. Phase separation of molecules also takes place inside cells. Here, liquid drops form in the cell plasma.

Phase separation guarantees distribution of cell components

Researchers at the laboratory of Lucas Pelkmans, professor at the Institute of Molecular Life Sciences at the University of Zurich (UZH), have now discovered that a class of enzymes – which are dual specificity kinases – actively control this process in cells. When a cell divides, the enzyme DYRK3 promotes the mixing of the phases. This guarantees that the cells can correctly build the machinery for separating the chromosomes and dividing the cell content. After division, the enzyme is broken down and the individual phases start to form again. If everything goes according to plan, the genetic material, organelles and cell contents are correctly distributed among the daughter cells. “These

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