photoScientists led by a group at the College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee have made a significant discovery about how our cells properly inherit their genetic information.

The research team led by Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow Professor Tomo Tanaka and colleagues Dr Maria Kalantzaki and Dr Etsushi Kitamura in the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at the College, working in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford, has studied a process of `lateral linking’ by which cells can properly multiply, one of the basic processes in all life.

The researchers say their findings give an insight into how abnormal cell division ends up causing cancers and genetic diseases.

Chromosomes carry genetic information in cells. When cells divide and multiply, a complete set of chromosomes must be duplicated and separated into each new cell with precision, as any error in this process might cause cell death, cancers and genetic diseases.

Proper separation of chromosomes relies on their linking to wire-like structures in the cell. If chromosomes are linked to the wires incorrectly, that link must be removed and a correct one formed.

Professor Tanaka said, “We have discovered that a chromosome is initially linked to the lateral side of a wire, before moving to its tip. The lateral linking allows a chromosome to catch a wire very efficiently. Once a chromosome reaches the tip of a wire, incorrect linkages are recognized and removed, whereas correct ones are retained.

“As lateral thinking often helps us to find a bright idea, so lateral linking helps a chromosome to find a right wire quickly. Future research should address not only how genetic information is inherited during normal cell division but also should study how this process could go wrong.”

The results of the research are published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

The research has been FUNDED by The Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research, the European Research Council, CR-UK, the Human Frontier Science Programme and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.