Molecular basis for motor-cargo cooperation in mitosis

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Julie Welburn

    University of Edinburgh

Project summary

It is essential that all living organisms transmit their genetic information accurately from one generation to the next. When a cell divides, it distributes the previously duplicated chromosomes to each daughter cell so that they inherit the same genetic message. Defects that result from unequal chromosome segregation can lead to dramatic consequences. Aneuploidy is frequently observed in cancer and results in genetic diseases such as trisomies including Down’s syndrome. The cell uses microtubules – long dynamic filaments that store energy – to segregate its chromosomes equally. Multiple nanoscale molecular motors organise the microtubules so that they can assemble to form the chromosome segregation machinery called the spindle.

We want to understand how these motors coordinate their activities to shape microtubules into a spindle and then attach and move chromosomes along it. We will define how motors achieve movement and transport at the molecular level and how cancer or cell death can occur when the process fails.

This research is key to understanding the molecular processes of cell division in the eukaryotic kingdom and will create opportunities for the discovery of anti-cancer drugs that target these motors.