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Integr Biol (Camb). 2012 Mar;4(3):328-34. doi: 10.1039/c2ib00083k. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Cell cycle synchronization by nutrient modulation.

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Center for Microfluidic and Nanotechnology, The State Key Laboratory for Artificial Microstructures and Mesoscopic Physics, School of Physics, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China.


Living cells respond to changing environments by regulating their genes and activities. In unicellular organisms such as yeasts, the cell division cycle is coupled to the nutrient availability. However, it is unclear how tight this coupling is and how the intrinsic time scales of the different cell cycle processes respond to varying nutrient conditions. Here we study the cell cycle behavior of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae in response to periodically modulated nutrient availability, using a microfluidic platform which allows for longtime cultivation, programmed medium switching, and automated time-lapse image acquisition. We observe that the division cycle of the yeast cells can follow a periodically modulated medium so that the whole population can be driven into synchrony. When the period of the nutrient modulation is optimized, as many as 80% of the cells in a population are continuously synchronized. The degree of synchronization as a function of the nutrient modulation period can be qualitatively captured by a stochastic phenomenological model. Our work may shed light on the coupling between the cell growth and cell division as well as provide a nontoxic and non-invasive method to continuously synchronize the cell cycle.

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