Spatial perturbation with synthetic protein scaffold reveals robustness of asymmetric cell division


Asymmetric cell division is an important mechanism for creating diversity in a cellular population. Stem cells commonly perform asymmetric division to generate both a daughter stem cell for self-renewal and a more differentiated daughter cell to populate the tissue. During asymmetric cell division, protein cell fate determinants asymmetrically localize to the opposite poles of a dividing cell to cause distinct cell fate. However, it remains unclear whether cell fate determination is robust to fluctuations and noise during this spatial allocation process. To answer this question, we engineered Caulobacter, a bacterial model for asymmetric division, to express synthetic scaffolds with modular protein interaction domains. These scaffolds perturbed the spatial distribution of the PleC-DivJ- DivK phospho-signaling network without changing their endogenous expression levels. Surprisingly, enforcing symmetrical distribution of these cell fate de terminants did not result in symmetric daughter fate or any morphological defects. Further computational analysis suggested that PleC and DivJ form a robust phospho-switch that can tolerate high amount of spatial variation. This insight may shed light on the presence of similar phospho-switches in stem cell asymmetric division regulation. Overall, our study demonstrates that synthetic protein scaffolds can provide a useful tool to probe biological systems for better understanding of their operating principles.


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Li, J. , Bu, P. , Chen, K. and Shen, X. (2013) Spatial perturbation with synthetic protein scaffold reveals robustness of asymmetric cell division. Journal of Biomedical Science and Engineering, 6, 134-143. doi: 10.4236/jbise.2013.62017.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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