University of Dundee

Hidden final step for chromosome inheritance discovered by Tanaka lab

03 Nov 2017

The research group led by Professor Tomo Tanaka has made a significant new discovery about how cells properly inherit their genetic information.

Dr Shuyu Li, a member of the team, explained their discovery, “When cells divide and multiply, they must copy and inherit their chromosomes, which carry their genetic information. Copied chromosome pairs are glued together but can only be inherited by newly born daughter cells after the glue is removed, enabling the paired chromosomes to separate. It is important to understand how the glue is removed, because failure in this process causes errors in chromosome inheritance, leading to cell death, cancer and genetic disorders. We have discovered a crucial final step facilitating this process.”

Professor Tanaka explained why the discovery is important, “The mechanism discovered in this study has previously been obscured because an earlier step, the severing of the glue, was thought to be sufficient for glue removal. However, we now find that this new mechanism must also work to make the removal of the glue efficient. Our discovery is important as it provides a potential new target for cancer therapy. It could also reveal the process behind genetic disorders that are known to be caused by mutations in this mechanism.” 

The research has been funded by the ERC and Wellcome Trust, and has been published in Molecular Cell 68, 605-614, 2017.