Lars Jansen has worked on the formation of the centromere, a key cellular structure in powering and controlling chromosome segregation and accurate cell division.
Jansen's work has just earned him a paper in Nature Cell Biology and a prestigious EMBO installation grant, of 50,000 euro per year, for a maximum of five years.
Lars Jansen moved from California to the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC), in Portugal, last year to head the Epigenetic Mechanisms group. The Nature Cell Biology paper, published online this week, in collaboration with a group at Stanford University School of Medicine, provides new insights into the scaffold of proteins that ensures accurate segregation of chromosomes during cell division, a fundamental step to ensure that daughter cells have the same genetic information as their mother, with reduced risk of cancer.
When segregating, chromosomes attach and move along proteins tracks (the mitotic spindle), from the centre of the cell to the poles. The centromere is the area of the chromosome that directs this attachment by controlling the assembly of a scaffold of proteins (called the kinetochore), which tether the chromosome to the spindle, and power its movement along the protein track. The location of the centromere on the chromosome is marked by the presence of a protein, called CENP-A, but how this protein is recognised by the other components of the cell to orchestrate the assembly of the centromere was not understood, until now.