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Cell. 2011 Feb 4;144(3):414-26. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.016.

Influence of cell geometry on division-plane positioning.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The spatial organization of cells depends on their ability to sense their own shape and size. Here, we investigate how cell shape affects the positioning of the nucleus, spindle and subsequent cell division plane. To manipulate geometrical parameters in a systematic manner, we place individual sea urchin eggs into microfabricated chambers of defined geometry (e.g., triangles, rectangles, and ellipses). In each shape, the nucleus is positioned at the center of mass and is stretched by microtubules along an axis maintained through mitosis and predictive of the future division plane. We develop a simple computational model that posits that microtubules sense cell geometry by probing cellular space and orient the nucleus by exerting pulling forces that scale to microtubule length. This model quantitatively predicts division-axis orientation probability for a wide variety of cell shapes, even in multicellular contexts, and estimates scaling exponents for length-dependent microtubule forces.

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