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A chemical approach to understanding cell division

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I will focus on our work to understand how membranes and membrane trafficking participate in cytokinesis. Although it is known that membranes are needed to seal daughter cells after severing, very little is known about whether (and how) specific lipids are involved in cytokinesis. Massive membrane rearrangements occur during cell division, suggesting that lipids play specific roles. We recently used mass spectrometry to determine if the lipidome changes in dividing cells and at a division site (the midbody) and found that only very specific lipids with specific side chains accumulate (Atilla-Gokcumen, Muro et al., Cell 2014). Using AFM , we demonstrated differences in the mechanical properties of live dividing cells and their isolated lipids relative to non-dividing cells. In parallel, we systematically used RNAi to knock down lipid biosynthetic enzymes and identified enzymes required for division, which highly correlated with lipids accumulated in dividing cells. Having determined the nature of lipids involved in cell division and their biosynthetic enzymes, the next steps are to understand their functions. To further investigate the lipids’ biological roles, we are using chemical biology and cell biology approaches.

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