Publications

2017
Alfaro-Aco, Raymundo, and Sabine Petry. “How TPX2 helps microtubules branch out.”. Cell Cycle (2017): n. pag. Web.
Alfaro-Aco, Raymundo, Akanksha Thawani, and Sabine Petry. “Structural analysis of the role of TPX2 in branching microtubule nucleation.”. J Cell Biol 216.4 (2017): , 216, 4, 983-997. Web.Abstract
The mitotic spindle consists of microtubules (MTs), which are nucleated by the γ-tubulin ring complex (γ-TuRC). How the γ-TuRC gets activated at the right time and location remains elusive. Recently, it was uncovered that MTs nucleate from preexisting MTs within the mitotic spindle, which requires the protein TPX2, but the mechanism basis for TPX2 action is unknown. Here, we investigate the role of TPX2 in branching MT nucleation. We establish the domain organization of Xenopus laevis TPX2 and define the minimal TPX2 version that stimulates branching MT nucleation, which we find is unrelated to TPX2's ability to nucleate MTs in vitro. Several domains of TPX2 contribute to its MT-binding and bundling activities. However, the property necessary for TPX2 to induce branching MT nucleation is contained within newly identified γ-TuRC nucleation activator motifs. Separation-of-function mutations leave the binding of TPX2 to γ-TuRC intact, whereas branching MT nucleation is abolished, suggesting that TPX2 may activate γ-TuRC to promote branching MT nucleation.
2016
Petry, Sabine. “Mechanisms of Mitotic Spindle Assembly.”. Annu Rev Biochem 85 (2016): , 85, 659-83. Web.Abstract
Life depends on cell proliferation and the accurate segregation of chromosomes, which are mediated by the microtubule (MT)-based mitotic spindle and ∼200 essential MT-associated proteins. Yet, a mechanistic understanding of how the mitotic spindle is assembled and achieves chromosome segregation is still missing. This is mostly due to the density of MTs in the spindle, which presumably precludes their direct observation. Recent insight has been gained into the molecular building plan of the metaphase spindle using bulk and single-molecule measurements combined with computational modeling. MT nucleation was uncovered as a key principle of spindle assembly, and mechanistic details about MT nucleation pathways and their coordination are starting to be revealed. Lastly, advances in studying spindle assembly can be applied to address the molecular mechanisms of how the spindle segregates chromosomes.
King, Matthew, and Sabine Petry. “Visualizing and Analyzing Branching Microtubule Nucleation Using Meiotic Xenopus Egg Extracts and TIRF Microscopy.”. Methods Mol Biol 1413 (2016): , 1413, 77-85. Web.Abstract
Mitotic and meiotic spindles consist primarily of microtubules, which originate from centrosomes and within the vicinity of chromatin. Indirect evidence suggested that microtubules also originate throughout the spindle, but the high microtubule density within the spindle precludes the direct observation of this phenomenon. By using meiotic Xenopus laevis egg extract and employing total internal reflection (TIRF) microscopy, microtubule nucleation from preexisting microtubules could be demonstrated and analyzed. Branching microtubule nucleation is an ideal mechanism to assemble and maintain a mitotic spindle, because microtubule numbers are amplified while preserving their polarity. Here, we describe the assays that made these findings possible and the experiments that helped identify the key molecular players involved.
2015
Alfaro-Aco, Ray, and Sabine Petry. “Building the Microtubule Cytoskeleton Piece by Piece.”. J Biol Chem 290.28 (2015): , 290, 28, 17154-62. Web.Abstract
The microtubule (MT) cytoskeleton gives cells their shape, organizes the cellular interior, and segregates chromosomes. These functions rely on the precise arrangement of MTs, which is achieved by the coordinated action of MT-associated proteins (MAPs). We highlight the first and most important examples of how different MAP activities are combined in vitro to create an ensemble function that exceeds the simple addition of their individual activities, and how the Xenopus laevis egg extract system has been utilized as a powerful intermediate between cellular and purified systems to uncover the design principles of self-organized MT networks in the cell.
Petry, Sabine, and Ronald D Vale. “Microtubule nucleation at the centrosome and beyond.”. Nat Cell Biol 17.9 (2015): , 17, 9, 1089-93. Web.