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Cell. 2009 May 29;137(5):926-37. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.03.021.

Structural memory in the contractile ring makes the duration of cytokinesis independent of cell size.

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CMM-East 3080, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Cytokinesis is accomplished by constriction of a cortical contractile ring. We show that during the early embryonic divisions in C. elegans, ring constriction occurs in two phases--an initial phase at a constant rate followed by a second phase during which the constriction rate decreases in proportion to ring perimeter. Cytokinesis completes in the same amount of time, despite the reduction in cell size during successive divisions, due to a strict proportionality between initial ring size and the constant constriction rate. During closure, the myosin motor in the ring decreases in proportion to perimeter without turning over. We propose a "contractile unit" model to explain how the ring retains a structural memory of its initial size as it disassembles. The scalability of constriction may facilitate coordination of mitotic events and cytokinesis when cell size, and hence the distance traversed by the ring, varies during embryogenesis and in other contexts.

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