A microtubule-organizing center directing intracellular transport in the early mouse embryo

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Science  01 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6354, pp. 925-928
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9335

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How microtubules organize in embryos

Cell functions ranging from cell division to morphogenesis rely on microtubules, with microtubule-organizing centers serving as anchoring sites for their outgrowth. Although the centrosome organizes the microtubule cytoskeleton in most animal cells, this organelle is absent in early development. Using live-cell imaging, Zenker et al. found that the cells of the early mouse embryo are connected by stable microtubule bridges to direct the growth of microtubules within them. Microtubules emanating from the bridges help to guide transport of key proteins, including E-cadherin, to the cell membrane to control cell polarization during early development.

Science, this issue p. 925


The centrosome is the primary microtubule-organizing center (MTOC) of most animal cells; however, this organelle is absent during early mammalian development. Therefore, the mechanism by which the mammalian embryo organizes its microtubules (MTs) is unclear. We visualize MT bridges connecting pairs of cells and show that the cytokinetic bridge does not undergo stereotypical abscission after cell division. Instead, it serves as scaffold for the accumulation of the MT minus-end–stabilizing protein CAMSAP3 throughout interphase, thereby transforming this structure into a noncentrosomal MTOC. Transport of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin to the membrane is coordinated by this MTOC and is required to form the pluripotent inner mass. Our study reveals a noncentrosomal form of MT organization that directs intracellular transport and is essential for mammalian development.

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