Unlike our rigid skeleton the microtubules within a cell are flexible, dynamic structures. Their growth is coordinated by a complicated network of protein signals, much of which is poorly understood. Scientists search for missing pieces of the puzzle by blocking the manufacture of proteins and observing the effects. Here, this technique is being used to show the importance of two proteins called CAMSAP2 and CAMSAP3 in human cells. Patterns are revealed by staining cell nuclei blue and tagging microtubule proteins with green and red fluorescent particles. In unaltered cells (top left) microtubule growth is tightly controlled, but without CAMSAP2 (top right) or CAMSAP3 (bottom left) the cell skeleton grows very haphazardly. Disabling both proteins simultaneously (bottom right) exaggerates the effect. Microtubules play a key role in cell division, so understanding the system could provide better targets for anti-cancer drugs that destroy rapidly dividing cells.
Written by Emma Stoye
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