Systems Biology of Mitosis
Principal Investigator: Marina Wallace
College: Central Saint Martins
Eukaryotic cells pass their genetic information faithfully from one generation to the next through the duplication and segregation of their genomes. This so called mitosis (or meiosis when sperm and egg cells are formed) is one of the fundamental processes of life. Mistakes during mitosis can contribute to cancer whereas those occurring during meiosis are the leading cause of infertility and mental retardation.
Mitosis is an immensely complex process. Although it has been studied intensively for more than a century, our understanding of mitosis at the molecular level is far from being complete. A major advance was recently achieved by the EU-funded project MitoCheck (2004-2009). Scientists from the MitoCheck consortium systematically inactivated all 22,000 human genes one by one in cultured human cells using RNA interference (RNAi). The cellular phenotypes upon the RNAi treatment were recorded by high-throughput live cell imaging. Automated analyses of the resulting images and movies revealed that some 600 out of the 22,000 human genes play a role in mitosis. For many of these mitotic proteins, their sub-cellular localization at different stages of the cell cycle and their interaction partners have also been identified by MitoCheck.
The identification of most, if not all, mitotic proteins provided the puzzle pieces for a complete picture of mitosis. The next obvious challenge is to assemble all the pieces together, or in molecular terms, to figure out how mitotic proteins function and interact with each other in a mitotic cell to generate a system that drives chromosome segregation and subsequent cell division. The MitoSys (systems biology of mitosis) project (2010-2015) will take on this challenge to tackle mitosis from a systems biology perspective. Internationally leading biologists, mathematicians, biochemists/ biophysicists working at thirteen research institutes, universities, international organizations and companies in eight different European countries will collaborate on this project to reveal how genes and proteins orchestrate mitosis in human cells. MitoSys will receive ten million Euros from the European Union under its seventh framework programme.