HITS scientists Musa Özboyaci and Prof. Rebecca Wade (MCM group) have performed calculations that help to understand the process of cell division in yeast. In a multidisciplinary study conducted together with researchers at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH) and at Frankfurt University, the team led by Prof. Elmar Schiebel (ZMBH) revealed the function of the Kar1 and Cdc31 proteins, crucial components of the yeast spindle pole body (SPB), in SPB duplication. The duplication of the SPB is an essential part of the chromosome segregation process in every cell cycle. At the beginning of the cell division process and SPB duplication, a multiprotein structure called the half-bridge juts out from the SPB and elongates into a bridge structure. In this study, the HITS researchers conducted free energy calculations which indicated that the Cdc31 proteins stabilize the structure of the SPB bridge to promote its duplication. This mechanism was supported by yeast growth measurements for a set of Cdc31 mutants. The SPB is the functional equivalent of the mammalian centrosome and thus these results improve our basic understanding of cell division processes which are of fundamental importance in cancer research. The article was published in the Journal of Cell Biology (Seybold et al. (2015), J. Cell. Biol. 209, 843-861, doi:10.1083/jcb.201412050) together with an electron microscopy image illustrating the role of the Kar1 protein in supporting the SPB bridge on the front cover.
HITS, the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies, was established in 2010 by physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural, mathematical, and computer sciences. Major research directions include complex simulations across scales, making sense of data, and enabling science via computational research. Application areas range from molecular biology to astrophysics. An essential characteristic of the Institute is interdisciplinarity, implemented in numerous cross-group and cross-disciplinary projects. The base funding of HITS is provided by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.