Nguyen Phuong A.

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Phuong A.

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Spindle-to-cortex communication in cleaving, polyspermic Xenopus eggs

2015-10-15 , Field, Christine M. , Groen, Aaron C. , Nguyen, Phuong A. , Mitchison, Timothy J.

Mitotic spindles specify cleavage planes in early embryos by communicating their position and orientation to the cell cortex using microtubule asters that grow out from the spindle poles during anaphase. Chromatin also plays a poorly understood role. Polyspermic fertilization provides a natural experiment in which aster pairs from the same spindle (sister asters) have chromatin between them, whereas asters pairs from different spindles (nonsisters) do not. In frogs, only sister aster pairs induce furrows. We found that only sister asters recruited two conserved furrow-inducing signaling complexes, chromosome passenger complex (CPC) and Centralspindlin, to a plane between them. This explains why only sister pairs induce furrows. We then investigated factors that influenced CPC recruitment to microtubule bundles in intact eggs and a cytokinesis extract system. We found that microtubule stabilization, optimal starting distance between asters, and proximity to chromatin all favored CPC recruitment. We propose a model in which proximity to chromatin biases initial CPC recruitment to microtubule bundles between asters from the same spindle. Next a positive feedback between CPC recruitment and microtubule stabilization promotes lateral growth of a plane of CPC-positive microtubule bundles out to the cortex to position the furrow.

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Self-organization of stabilized microtubules by both spindle and midzone mechanisms in Xenopus egg cytosol

2013-03-20 , Mitchison, Timothy J. , Nguyen, Phuong A. , Coughlin, Margaret , Groen, Aaron C.

Previous study of self-organization of Taxol-stabilized microtubules into asters in Xenopus meiotic extracts revealed motor-dependent organizational mechanisms in the spindle. We revisit this approach using clarified cytosol with glycogen added back to supply energy and reducing equivalents. We added probes for NUMA and Aurora B to reveal microtubule polarity. Taxol and dimethyl sulfoxide promote rapid polymerization of microtubules that slowly self-organize into assemblies with a characteristic morphology consisting of paired lines or open circles of parallel bundles. Minus ends align in NUMA-containing foci on the outside, and plus ends in Aurora B–containing foci on the inside. Assemblies have a well-defined width that depends on initial assembly conditions, but microtubules within them have a broad length distribution. Electron microscopy shows that plus-end foci are coated with electron-dense material and resemble similar foci in monopolar midzones in cells. Functional tests show that two key spindle assembly factors, dynein and kinesin-5, act during assembly as they do in spindles, whereas two key midzone assembly factors, Aurora B and Kif4, act as they do in midzones. These data reveal the richness of self-organizing mechanisms that operate on microtubules after they polymerize in meiotic cytoplasm and provide a biochemically tractable system for investigating plus-end organization in midzones.

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Using supported bilayers to study the spatiotemporal organization of membrane-bound proteins

2015-01 , Nguyen, Phuong A. , Field, Christine M. , Groen, Aaron C. , Mitchison, Timothy J. , Loose, Martin

Cell division in prokaryotes and eukaryotes is commonly initiated by the well-controlled binding of proteins to the cytoplasmic side of the cell membrane. However, a precise characterization of the spatiotemporal dynamics of membrane-bound proteins is often difficult to achieve in vivo. Here, we present protocols for the use of supported lipid bilayers to rebuild the cytokinetic machineries of cells with greatly different dimensions: the bacterium Escherichia coli and eggs of the vertebrate Xenopus laevis. Combined with total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, these experimental setups allow for precise quantitative analyses of membrane-bound proteins. The protocols described to obtain glass-supported membranes from bacterial and vertebrate lipids can be used as starting points for other reconstitution experiments. We believe that similar biochemical assays will be instrumental to study the biochemistry and biophysics underlying a variety of complex cellular tasks, such as signaling, vesicle trafficking and cell motility.

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Prc1E and Kif4A control microtubule organization within and between large Xenopus egg asters

2018-03-23 , Nguyen, Phuong A. , Field, Christine M. , Mitchison, Timothy J.

The cleavage furrow in Xenopus zygotes is positioned by two large microtubule asters that grow out from the poles of the first mitotic spindle. Where these asters meet at the midplane, they assemble a disk-shaped interaction zone consisting of anti-parallel microtubule bundles coated with chromosome passenger complex (CPC) and centralspindlin that instructs the cleavage furrow. Here we investigate the mechanism that keeps the two asters separate and forms a distinct boundary between them, focusing on the conserved cytokinesis midzone proteins Prc1 and Kif4A. Prc1E, the egg orthologue of Prc1, and Kif4A were recruited to anti-parallel bundles at interaction zones between asters in Xenopus egg extracts. Prc1E was required for Kif4A recruitment but not vice versa. Microtubule plus-end growth slowed and terminated preferentially within interaction zones, resulting in a block to interpenetration that depended on both Prc1E and Kif4A. Unexpectedly, Prc1E and Kif4A were also required for radial order of large asters growing in isolation, apparently to compensate for the direction-randomizing influence of nucleation away from centrosomes. We propose that Prc1E and Kif4, together with catastrophe factors, promote “anti-parallel pruning” that enforces radial organization within asters and generates boundaries to microtubule growth between asters.