Long-Lived, Fast-Growing Microtubules Generated by Unconventional Mechanism; Possible Clue to Bowel Cancer Development

Researchers from the University of Warwick in the UK have determined, in more detail, how cells in the human body assemble their own “railway networks,” perhaps shedding new light on how diseases such as bowel cancer may develop. The results were published online on February 11, 2016 in Scientific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Alp7/TACC-Alp14/TOG Generates Long-Lived, Fast-Growing MTs by an Unconventional Mechanism. Professor Robert Cross, Professor of Mechanochemical Cell Biology at Warwick Medical School, said: “Every cell in our bodies contains a railway network, a system of tiny tracks called microtubules that run between important destinations inside the cell and allow cargo to be carried from one place to another. The tracks of this cellular railway are almost unimaginably small - just 25 nanometers across (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter). The railway is just as crucial to a well-run cell as a full-size railway is to a well-run country.” The microtubule tracks are vital for functions such as cell division and are a key target for key anti-cancer drugs. The Cross lab is researching how these microtubule tracks are assembled. Professor Cross said: “It has been known for some time that a team of proteins called TOGs sits on the tip of the growing microtubule track and works like a team of tiny railway workers to rapidly lay the new microtubule track. But exactly how this team works so effectively has been mysterious.” In its new work the Cross lab shows that TOGs are held in place at microtubule tips by other proteins called TACCs, and that the TOG-TACC machinery then stabilizes the growing microtubule track, as well as speeding up the assembly of the new track.
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