The Lord of the Rings
Cell division is a very complex and nevertheless super-accurate process. A single error in the distribution of the genetic material during division can lead to severe birth defects or cancer. How is the required precision achieved on the molecular level? That is the question Stephan Gruber and his team seek to answer.
Cell division is carried out in several steps, all of which are precisely controlled. First, the genetic material, the DNA, is duplicated by means of a molecular copy machine. Then, it is tightly packed in the form of chromosomes. Finally, chromosome copies are segregated into the daughter cells. The research group of Stephan Gruber investigates how chromosomes are organized within the cell. Furthermore, they want to explore mechanisms involved in chromosome segregation.
A special research interest of the scientists is the protein called bacterial condensin. This ring-shaped complex holds different DNA molecules together and thus folds the chromosome into a series of loops. How does condensin find its position on the chromosome and why does it only work in particular regions of the chromosome? How does DNA enter the condensin ring? These are questions the scientists are seeking to answer by means of imaging techniques and biophysical analyses.
The fight against bacteria
Some key proteins of chromosome duplication and segregation also play an important role as targets of antibiotics. Hence, a better understanding of chromosome organization and cell division mechanisms in bacteria could facilitate the identification of new targets for therapies against bacterial pathogens – and some day potentially help to elucidate the mechanisms of chromosome segregation in more complex organisms.