A novel way of shuttling cellular components in the developing fly egg revealed
One of several motor proteins used to move cellular components around, dynein typically operates by latching onto a cargo, then dragging it along tracks laid down by cytoskeletal filaments called microtubules. Yet scientists studying egg production in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster recently described a totally different mode of action. In the egg chamber of female Drosophila (pictured), nurse cells (to the left) provide the developing oocyte (right) with proteins, organelles and RNA, through intercellular connections known as ring canals (pink, with microtubules in white). There, instead of shuttling cargo as usual, dynein, anchored to the inside of the cell membrane, moves the microtubules themselves, gliding them through; this motion drags cytoplasm along, bringing large amounts of particles with it for bulk delivery. As dynein is highly-conserved across species, and ring canals have also been found in egg-producing cells in vertebrates, including humans, this 'go-with-the-flow' transport could occur more widely.
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