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Dis Model Mech. 2009 Nov-Dec;2(11-12):541-7. doi: 10.1242/dmm.002022.

Learning about cancer from frogs: analysis of mitotic spindles in Xenopus egg extracts.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The mitotic spindle is responsible for correctly segregating chromosomes during cellular division. Disruption of this process leads to genomic instability in the form of aneuploidy, which can contribute to the development of cancer. Therefore, identification and characterization of factors that are responsible for the assembly and regulation of the spindle are crucial. Not only are these factors often altered in cancer, but they also serve as potential therapeutic targets. Xenopus egg extract is a powerful tool for studying spindle assembly and other cell cycle-related events owing, in large part, to the ease with which protein function can be manipulated in the extract. Importantly, the spindle factors that have been characterized in egg extract are conserved in human spindle assembly. In this review, we explain how the extract is prepared and manipulated to study the function of individual factors in spindle assembly and the spindle checkpoint. Furthermore, we provide examples of several spindle factors that have been defined functionally using the extract system and discuss how these factors are altered in human cancer.

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