EMBL scientists identify the genes involved in cell division in humans
Thursday, 01 April 2010
Normal Cell Division. When no genes are silenced, cell division occurs normally, with each cell giving rise to two. This video was generated within the Mitocheck consortium, whose dataset containing more videos can be found online. Credit: Thomas Walter/EMBL.
Of the 22,000 genes in each human cell, almost 600 play a part in mitosis, Ellenberg and colleagues found. To uncover which genes are involved in this process, the scientists developed a new method using high-throughput imaging of living cells. They silenced, or inactivated, each of the 22,000 human genes one by one in a different set of cells, and filmed those cells for 48 hours under a microscope. This generated almost 200,000 time-lapse movies of mitosis. Having a person – or even a group of people – process such vast amounts of information would be almost impossible, so the scientists created a new computer program that analyses the footage and automatically detects what characteristic defects cells display, and in what order. By grouping genes with similar effects – for instance, genes which when inactivated led to cells with 2 nuclei instead of one, after division – they were able to identify genes involved in mitosis, which they confirmed with further experimental assays.
"The end result is that we now have a very rich resource for the scientific community, as we're making all the movies and all the analysis data freely available online," Ellenberg emphasises.
"Scientists can go to the website, type in the name of their favourite gene, and watch what happens when it is silenced; they can find out what other genes have similar effects – all in a few mouse clicks, instead of months or years of work in the lab!"
But mitosis is not solved yet, the scientists say. They have yet to uncover exactly how these genes act at the molecular level – a task that will be tackled by a follow-up project called Mitosys. All data from this follow-up work will also be made freely available online, creating what Ellenberg describes as a 'one-stop-shop' for mitosis research.
"A year after we developed these new siRNA microarrays," says Rainer Pepperkok, who led the method's development at EMBL, "they're already in use by over 10 research groups from across Europe."
The current study looked at HeLa cells, a widely studied line of cancer cells. Now that they have narrowed the search from a daunting 22,000 to a more manageable 600 genes, the scientists would like to investigate how these same genes act in other cancers and in healthy cells, as such comparisons could help to identify markers which could be used for diagnosis or to help make better-informed treatment decisions.
The study was carried out as part of the Mitocheck consortium, coordinated by Jan-Michael Peters at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, Austria, and the data is available at http://www.mitocheck.org/.
Phenotypic profiling of the human genome by time-lapse microscopy reveals cell division genes
Beate Neumann, Thomas Walter, Jean-Karim Hériché, Jutta Bulkescher, Holger Erfle, Christian Conrad, Phill Rogers, Ina Poser, Michael Held, Urban Liebel, Cihan Cetin, Frank Sieckmann, Gregoire Pau, Rolf Kabbe, Annelie Wünsche, Venkata Satagopam, Michael H. A. Schmitz, Catherine Chapuis, Daniel W. Gerlich, Reinhard Schneider, Roland Eils, Wolfgang Huber, Jan-Michael Peters, Anthony A. Hyman, Richard Durbin, Rainer Pepperkok & Jan Ellenberg
Nature, 1 April 2010, doi:10.1038/nature08869
Systematic Localization and Purification of Human Protein Complexes Identifies Chromosome Segregation Proteins
Hutchins et al.
Science Express, published online 1 April 2010
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