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Development. 2001 Apr;128(7):1137-45.

The role of centrosomes and astral microtubules during asymmetric division of Drosophila neuroblasts.

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Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Dipartimento di Genetica e Biologia Molecolare, Universita' di Roma La Sapienza, P.le Aldo Moro 5, Italy.


Drosophila neuroblasts are stem cells that divide asymmetrically to produce another large neuroblast and a smaller ganglion mother cell (GMC). During neuroblast division, several cell fate determinants, such as Miranda, Prospero and Numb, are preferentially segregated into the GMC, ensuring its correct developmental fate. The accurate segregation of these determinants relies on proper orientation of the mitotic spindle within the dividing neuroblast, and on the correct positioning of the cleavage plane. In this study we have analyzed the role of centrosomes and astral microtubules in neuroblast spindle orientation and cytokinesis. We examined neuroblast division in asterless (asl) mutants, which, although devoid of functional centrosomes and astral microtubules, form well-focused anastral spindles that undergo anaphase and telophase. We show that asl neuroblasts assemble a normal cytokinetic ring around the central spindle midzone and undergo unequal cytokinesis. Thus, astral microtubules are not required for either signaling or positioning cytokinesis in Drosophila neuroblasts. Our results indicate that the cleavage plane is dictated by the positioning of the central spindle midzone within the cell, and suggest a model on how the central spindle attains an asymmetric position during neuroblast mitosis. We have also analyzed the localization of Miranda during mitotic division of asl neuroblasts. This protein accumulates in morphologically regular cortical crescents but these crescents are mislocalized with respect to the spindle orientation. This suggests that astral microtubules mediate proper spindle rotation during neuroblast division.

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