First Interactive Model of Human Cell Division
“Until now, individual labs have mostly been looking at single proteins in living cells,” said Dr Jan Ellenberg, the group leader at EMBL who led the project. “Supported by the follow-up EU project MitoSys we were now able to take a systems approach, and look at the bigger picture by studying the dynamic networks many proteins form in living human cells.”
The resulting Mitotic Cell Atlas integrates these data in an interactive 4D computer model. Scientists can use the resource to freely choose any combination of mitotic proteins and see in real time where and with whom they work during cell division.
Dr Ellenberg said: “Besides mitosis, the technologies developed here can be used to study proteins that drive other cellular functions, for example cell death, cell migration or metastasis of cancer cells. By looking at the dynamic networks these proteins form, we can identify critical vulnerabilities, points where there’s only one protein responsible to link two tasks together without a back-up.”
Looking at disease relevant processes from a dynamic network point of view provides a new perspective to find their critical links, where they can be cut or rewired to strengthen them. To enable more such studies in the future, the experimental methods, the quantitative microscopy platform, and the code to create dynamic protein atlases are now openly available for others to use.
In total, there are about 600 different proteins involved in mitosis in human cells. Completing the dataset for all 600 would allow scientists to fully understand the transmission of information within a dividing cell, and how decisions – like going from one cell cycle phase to the next – are made. This will take several more years of work