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Durham University

Research & business

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Dr Timothy Davies

Assistant Professor in the Department of Biosciences

(email at timothy.r.davies@durham.ac.uk)

Cell division varies with cell identity

Cytokinesis is the process by which one cell physically divides into two at the end of mitosis. This process is fundamental for life, and errors can result in abnormal chromosomal numbers, developmental defects, and cancers. Work over the last century has shown that cytokinesis in animal cells requires a carefully synchronised set of molecular signals that promote the formation of a contractile ring around the cell equator, which then constricts to divide the cell. Similarities in the structural and molecular organization of this division apparatus in a variety of animal model systems give the impression that the mechanisms underlying cell division do not vary between cell and organism types. However, clinical studies have shown tissue-specific division failure due to mutations in cytokinetic proteins. In addition to this, we have shown that in the early Caenorhabditis elegans embryo the requirement for an ‘essential’ cytokinesis protein varies between specific cells. These results highlight an under-appreciated intersection between cell identity and cell division. Therefore, our lab is expanding work in this area, analysing cell division in a multicellular context to identify how cells from the same organism are regulated in different ways during cytokinesis.

C. elegans is an ideal tool to study cell division

Caenorhabditis elegans is a small (1mm) nematode worm that has several characteristics that make it an excellent model in which to investigate context-specific variation in cell division. First, it has a stereotyped development in which each cell has a different identity, allowing cytokinetic phenotypes to be compared between different cells. Second, C. elegans has been used as a model system for decades and many of the pathways that contribute to specifying cell fate during development are well known. Third, genetic tools allow us to precisely disrupt or modify specific protein function. Fourth, cell division and embryogenesis can be observed using live-cell fluorescence microscopy, allowing analysis and quantification of these dynamic processes. Finally, many pathways involved in cytokinesis and cell identity are highly conserved between C. elegans and higher metazoans, which enables comparison with other model systems. Taking advantage of these features, our lab currently investigates how cytokinesis varies between cells in the early C. elegans embryo using a combination of genetics and fluorescence microscopy.

Research Groups

Department of Biosciences

Research Interests

  • C. elegans development
  • Cell division
  • Cytoskeletal structure and dynamics
  • Live-cell fluorescence microscopy

Publications

Chapter in book

Journal Article