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Biochem Cell Biol. 1992 Oct-Nov;70(10-11):920-45.

Towards understanding the control of the division cycle in animal cells.

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Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, Ont., Canada.


The author reviewed the historical process by which classical knowledge of cell division accumulated, to give rise to the molecular biology of the cell cycle, and discussed the perspective of this field of research. The study of the control of cell division began at the turn of the century. It was hypothesized that cell division was a physiological regulation necessary for growing cells to maintain a proper nucleocytoplasmic ratio to survive, which was later substantiated by the finding that amoeba cells could be prevented from dividing by repeated excision of the cytoplasm. However, the observation in Tetrahymena that heat-shocked cells grow exceedingly, but fail to divide, suggested that the cell required the accumulation of a labile "division protein" to initiate division. Mechanisms that control the cell cycle were studied in oocytes by nuclear transplantation and cytoplasmic transfer, and in cultured mammalian cells, protozoa, and Physarum plasmodia by cell fusion. These experiments demonstrated the existence of cytoplasmic factors that control the cell cycle. Maturation promoting factor (MPF) thus discovered in frog oocytes became known to be an ubiquitous cytoplasmic factor that causes the transition from interphase to metaphase in all organisms. The insight into the molecular control of cell growth and division was gained from yeast cell genetics. For biochemical analysis of the cell cycle control, the method to observe the cell cycle in vitro was developed using frog egg extracts. Thus, MPF was identified as a cdc2--cyclin protein complex. Its activity was found to depend on synthesis and phosphorylation of these proteins. However, recently it was found that there were cell cycle phenomena that were difficult to explain in these terms. Various other cellular factors, including nucleocytoplasmic ratio and microtubule assembly, were also found to control MPF, as well as the cell cycle. It remained open to future how these factors control MPF to alter the pattern of the cell cycle.

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