PerspectiveCell Biology

A Helix for the Final Cut

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Science  25 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6024, pp. 1533-1534
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204208

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The ability of cells to divide is essential for the proliferation and development of organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. Despite spectacular progress in knowledge about the molecular dynamics of cell division, one key issue still puzzles scientists: How is the connection between two dividing cells finally cut (1)? On page 1616 of this issue, Guizetti et al. (2) identify a contractile helix made up of a 17-nm-thick protein filament that accomplishes abscission between two human cells separating during cell division, in concert with an enzyme that breaks up the bundles of cytoskeletal microtubules that hold the pair together.