A team of scientists have discovered a protein mechanism that help in splitting a single cell into two daughter cells.

The team from Johns Hopkins have identified the protein, called 13-3-3, that coordinates and regulates the dynamics of the cell. The protein could throw new light on how cancer tumors occur in a human body and build effective treatment.

The Hopkins team links 14-3-3 directly to myosin II, a complex of motor proteins that monitors and smoothes out the shape changes to ensure accurate division in a report published Nov. 9 in Current Biology,“The discovery of this role for 14-3-3 has immediate and important medical implications because cell division already is one of the major targets of anticancer drugs,” says Douglas Robinson, Ph.D., an associate professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “This protein provides a new opportunity for tweaking the cell division system.”

Earlier studies relating to mitotic spindle in the one-celled amoeba Dictyostelium gave rise to the present study. The spindle separates the genetic material into two and equally divides one for each of the daughter cells. It also coordinates the cell division process at the outer membrane.

Utilizing a chemical-genetic method, the researchers altered the cells allowing them to grow to only half their normal size. Genetic engineering tools were used to make the cells normal again.

“Having studied myosin II for 13 years, it still surprised us that 14-3-3 coordinate’s myosin II in the critical processes of cell shape change and division,” said Robinson. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and American Cancer Society.