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Trends Cell Biol. 2003 Nov;13(11):562-9.

Spindle asymmetry: a compass for the cell.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Building HPM, Room F13.1, ETH Hoenggerberg, 8093 Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Spatial coordination of the cell-division axis with cellular polarity and/or with the position of neighboring cells is crucial for embryonic development, organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. In most cell types, the position of the mitotic spindle at the onset of anaphase dictates the orientation of the division axis; in unicellular organisms, it plays an important role in chromosome segregation. Cortical factors play a key role in the orientation of the spindle. Recent data from yeast reveal that the spindle does not passively react to cortical signals but actively interprets them to find its correct position. We review the data leading to a "compass model" for spindle positioning and discuss its potential generality.

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