PerspectiveDevelopmental Biology

Phase Transition in a Cell

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Science  26 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5935, pp. 1654-1655
DOI: 10.1126/science.1176523

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Most eukaryotic cells divide into equal halves, but cell division can be asymmetric when the two daughter cells acquire different cell fate determinants by unequal segregation of RNAs, proteins, and/or organelles. Asymmetric division controls cell diversification required for embryonic development (1) or the homeostasis of adult tissues (2), and in some animals, such as the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, it can occur as early as the one-cell stage fertilized egg (zygote). On page 1729 in this issue, Brangwynne et al. (3) report an unsual strategy for polarizing the cytoplasm in the one-cell stage C. elegans embryo.