It’s a classic ‘chicken-and-egg’ situation. Microtubules are small tubes that provide essential structure and transport routes for a whole variety of processes inside our cells. But during very early development our cells don’t have a centrosome – the structure that usually organises these microtubules, neatly laying them out across the cell to perform their functions. So how do they function without their guide steering them in the right direction? By looking at living cells in a developing mouse embryo that was modified to produce a fluorescent protein alongside its microtubules (pictured in blue), researchers spotted the answer: The cells are connected by dense bridges of microtubules (the light blue structures joining each cell), which direct the growth of more microtubules inside. Strands emanating out from these bridges reach across the cell to help transport key molecules that ultimately direct the growth from these few cells into a whole independent organism.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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