Purpose of Review
How stem cells balance proliferation with differentiation, giving rise to specific daughter cells during development to build an embryo or tissue, remains an open question. Here, we discuss recent evidence that cytokinetic abscission regulation in stem cells, particularly neural stem cells (NSCs), is part of the answer. Abscission is a multi-step process mediated by the midbody, a microtubule-based structure formed in the intercellular bridge between daughter cells after mitosis.
Human mutations and mouse knockouts in abscission genes reveal that subtle disruptions of NSC abscission can cause brain malformations. Experiments in several epithelial systems have shown that midbodies serve as scaffolds for apical junction proteins and are positioned near apical membrane fate determinants. Abscission timing is tightly controlled and developmentally regulated in stem cells, with delayed abscission in early embryos and faster abscission later. Midbody remnants (MBRs) contain over 400 proteins and may influence polarity, fate, and ciliogenesis.
As NSCs and other stem cells build tissues, they tightly regulate three aspects of abscission: midbody positioning, duration, and MBR handling. Midbody positioning and remnants establish or maintain cell polarity. MBRs are deposited on the apical membranes of epithelia, can be released or internalized by surrounding cells, and may sequester fate determinants or transfer information between cells. Work in cell lines and simpler systems has shown multiple roles for abscission regulation influencing stem cell polarity, potency, and daughter fates during development. Elucidating how the abscission process influences cell fate and tissue growth is important for our continued understanding of brain development and stem cell biology.