A computational model predicts Xenopus meiotic spindle organization.
Loughlin, R., Heald, R. & Nedelec, F.
J Cell Biol. 2010 Dec 27;191(7):1239-49. Epub 2010 Dec 20.
The metaphase spindle is a dynamic bipolar structure crucial for proper chromosome segregation, but how microtubules (MTs) are organized within the bipolar architecture remains controversial. To explore MT organization along the pole-to-pole axis, we simulated meiotic spindle assembly in two dimensions using dynamic MTs, a MT cross-linking force, and a kinesin-5-like motor. The bipolar structures that form consist of antiparallel fluxing MTs, but spindle pole formation requires the addition of a NuMA-like minus-end cross-linker and directed transport of MT depolymerization activity toward minus ends. Dynamic instability and minus-end depolymerization generate realistic MT lifetimes and a truncated exponential MT length distribution. Keeping the number of MTs in the simulation constant, we explored the influence of two different MT nucleation pathways on spindle organization. When nucleation occurs throughout the spindle, the simulation quantitatively reproduces features of meiotic spindles assembled in Xenopus egg extracts.
Chromatin shapes the mitotic spindle.
Dinarina, A., Pugieux, C., Corral, M.M., Loose, M., Spatz, J., Karsenti, E. & Nedelec, F.
Cell. 2009 Aug 7;138(3):502-13.
In animal and plant cells, mitotic chromatin locally generates microtubules that self-organize into a mitotic spindle, and its dimensions and bipolar symmetry are essential for accurate chromosome segregation. By immobilizing microscopic chromatin-coated beads on slide surfaces using a microprinting technique, we have examined the effect of chromatin on the dimensions and symmetry of spindles in Xenopus laevis cytoplasmic extracts. While circular spots with diameters around 14-18 microm trigger bipolar spindle formation, larger spots generate an incorrect number of poles. We also examined lines of chromatin with various dimensions. Their length determined the number of poles that formed, with a 6 x 18 microm rectangular patch generating normal spindle morphology. Around longer lines, multiple poles formed and the structures were disorganized. While lines thinner than 10 mum generated symmetric structures, thicker lines induced the formation of asymmetric structures where all microtubules are on the same side of the line. Our results show that chromatin defines spindle shape and orientation. For a video summary of this article, see the PaperFlick file available with the online Supplemental Data.
Mechanism of phototaxis in marine zooplankton.
Jekely, G., Colombelli, J., Hausen, H., Guy, K., Stelzer, E.H.K., Nedelec, F. & Arendt, D.
Nature. 2008 Nov 20;456(7220):395-9.
The simplest animal eyes are eyespots composed of two cells only: a photoreceptor and a shading pigment cell. They resemble Darwin's 'proto-eyes', considered to be the first eyes to appear in animal evolution. Eyespots cannot form images but enable the animal to sense the direction of light. They are characteristic for the zooplankton larvae of marine invertebrates and are thought to mediate larval swimming towards the light. Phototaxis of invertebrate larvae contributes to the vertical migration of marine plankton, which is thought to represent the biggest biomass transport on Earth. Yet, despite its ecological and evolutionary importance, the mechanism by which eyespots regulate phototaxis is poorly understood. Here we show how simple eyespots in marine zooplankton mediate phototactic swimming, using the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii as a model. We find that the selective illumination of one eyespot changes the beating of adjacent cilia by direct cholinergic innervation resulting in locally reduced water flow. Computer simulations of larval swimming show that these local effects are sufficient to direct the helical swimming trajectories towards the light. The computer model also shows that axial rotation of the larval body is essential for phototaxis and that helical swimming increases the precision of navigation. These results provide, to our knowledge, the first mechanistic understanding of phototaxis in a marine zooplankton larva and show how simple eyespots regulate it. We propose that the underlying direct coupling of light sensing and ciliary locomotor control was a principal feature of the proto-eye and an important landmark in the evolution of animal eyes.
Cortical microtubule contacts position the spindle in C. elegans embryos.
Kozlowski, C., Srayko, M. & Nedelec, F.
Cell. 2007 May 4;129(3):499-510.
Interactions between microtubules and the cell cortex play a critical role in positioning organelles in a variety of biological contexts. Here we used Caenorhabditis elegans as a model system to study how cortex-microtubule interactions position the mitotic spindle in response to polarity cues. Imaging EBP-2::GFP and YFP::alpha-tubulin revealed that microtubules shrink soon after cortical contact, from which we propose that cortical adaptors mediate microtubule depolymerization energy into pulling forces. We also observe association of dynamic microtubules to form astral fibers that persist, despite the catastrophe events of individual microtubules. Computer simulations show that these effects, which are crucially determined by microtubule dynamics, can explain anaphase spindle oscillations and posterior displacement in 3D.