Evidence for an upper limit to mitotic spindle length

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Entry by Andrew Capulli, AP225 Fall 2011


Martin Wuehr, Yao Chen, Sophie Dumont, Aaron Groen, Daniel J. Needleman, Adrian Salic, Timothy J. Mitchison, Evidence for an Upper Limit to Mitotic Spindle Length. Current Biology, 2008, 18, 1256-1261

Introduction: Motivation

All living organisms have, at the very least, one thing in common: DNA. Although relative amounts of DNA and chromosomes vary among species (bacteria have a pair of chromosomes while humans have 23 pairs and monkeys have 24 pair for example), DNA contains the coding for future life in any living organism (Note: DNA's role in transcription, translation, protein formation: see wikipedia entry on the "Central Dogma of Molecular Biology": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_dogma_of_molecular_biology). It begs the question then, how, if all species are based upon their DNA and we all have DNA, do species scale? Perhaps more clearly: why are certain species large and others small? Does cell size have anything to do with scaling? As discussed in lecture, it is often the goal of physicists to find the length scale; in the world of log-log plots, the slope of those plots is scaling and the rationalization of that slope is the true science. What Needleman et. al. begin to do is address this scaling question in terms of the human body, mitosis spindle fibers, and DNA. The question of scaling the human body as a whole may seem extreme right now, but the authors of this experimental paper have begun to break the ice on the fundamental unit of life: the cell.

Needleman et. al. do most of their work in this study investigating the length of mitotic spindle fibers as they scale with cell size. Using Xenopus Laevis cells (a type of frog with large cells easier to study than say, smaller human cells), the authors essentially measure spindle length as it varies with maximum cell length during different stages of mitosis. Further (and what I beleive to be more interesting and maybe conclusive) studies varying DNA amounts in the cells and observing how spindle fiber length scales are done and will be discussed more below.
Capulli Mitosis WIKIPEDIA.jpg
. Refer to the thumb image of Mitosis to the right to visualize the spindle fibers (taken from wikipedia entry on Mitosis, also a good reference to brush up on cell division terminology.

Summary of Main Experimentation

The purpose of this study was to identify how spindle fibers in mitosis scale with cell size. The Xenopus Laevis cells vary in cell size during mitosis ranging about 10nm to about 1300nm (cell sized as defined in this study is the maximum distance across an elliptical cell- pole to pole of a mitotic cell). Using Xenopus Laevis cells was therefore advantageous, giving the research team a large variety of cell sizes to examine. Using standard methanol fixation and immunofluorescence, images like those below were taken and spindle length calculated.

Needleman Mitosis 1.jpg