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The Metaphase Spindle as an Active Liquid Crystal

Needleman, D (Harvard University)
Friday 28 June 2013, 09:00-09:45

Meeting Room 2, CMS


The spindle is a complex assembly of microtubules, motors, and other associated proteins, which segregates chromosomes during cell division. In metaphase, the spindle exists in a steady-state with a constant flux of molecules and energy continuously modifying and maintaining its architecture. While the self-organization of systems of microtubules and motors have been investigated using theory and experiments, there have been few attempts to test if the proposed theories can be used to understand the dynamics and structure of complex biological systems in vivo. Here we use polarized light microscopy, 3D time-lapse spinning disk confocal microscopy, single molecule imaging, second harmonic generation microscopy, and mechanical measurements to test the validity of continuum models of metaphase spindles. Our results show that a simple continuum model can quantitatively explain spindle structure and dynamics, demonstrate that rigorous physical theories can be used to quantitat ively describe complex subcellular systems, and provide a framework for understanding the structure of the spindle and its response to physical and molecular perturbations.

Co-author: Jan Brugues (Harvard University)

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