Going global

Stowers team reports genome-wide analysis of genes that drive cell division in a multicellular organism.

“Before, you sailed from place to place for hundreds of years establishing landmarks to create a map,” Genomic Scientist Chris Seidel, PhD, says when equating modern genome mapping with using satellites and GPS for navigating the earth. Today, a few hours’ worth of data collection offers a comprehensive, global view. Stowers Investigator Matt Gibson, PhD has taken full advantage of these advancements to explore gene expression during cell division and made some compelling discoveries.

Mitosis, the tug-of-war in dividing cells as duplicated pairs of chromosomes get dragged in opposite directions into daughter cells, occurs only after essential safety steps in the cell cycle. Almost any disease, from autoimmunity to neurodegeneration, is marked – if not caused – by some kind of cycle malfunction, making these quality control steps essential for proper cell division.

Halting abnormal cell division thus requires knowing where in the cell cycle genes should be active, a task pursued by the Gibson Lab as they undertook a genome-wide comparison of genes in fruit fly larval tissue that are expressed during these steps. Their work successfully catalogued over 300 genes differentially expressed in the cell cycle – a notable first in a multicellular organism.

“What was exciting was the plasticity we saw in cell cycle regulation of gene expression,” says Liang Liang, the predoctoral researcher who led the Gibson Lab’s efforts. “Every animal uses the same cell cycle machinery, but that machinery may be regulated very differently depending on the cell type, even in the same organism.”

With a nod to the pioneers in the cell cycle field, Gibson pointed out that they “provided immense insight into how cell division works. Now we have tools to determine how that fundamental process is fine-tuned to operate in the complex and varied contexts present in a multicellular animal.”

The study was published in the April 14, 2014, issue of the journal Developmental Cell.