Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: The Journal of cell biology
Asymmetric divisions are essential for the generation of cell fate and size diversity. They implicate cortical domains where minus end-directed motors, such as dynein, are activated to pull on microtubules to decenter asters attached to centrosomes, nuclei, or spindles. In asymmetrically dividing cells, aster decentration typically follows a centering phase, suggesting a time-dependent regulation in the competition between microtubule centering and decentering forces. Using symmetrically dividing sea urchin zygotes, we generated cortical domains of magnetic particles that spontaneously cluster endogenous dynein activity. These domains efficiently attract asters and nuclei, yielding marked asymmetric divisions. Remarkably, aster decentration only occurred after asters had first reached the cell center. Using intracellular force measurement and models, we demonstrate that this time-regulated imbalance results from a global reduction of centering forces rather than a local maturation of dynein activity at the domain. Those findings define a novel paradigm for the regulation of division asymmetry. © 2018 Sallé et al.