Building the contractile ring from the ground up: a lesson in perseverance and scientific creativity

  • Caroline Laplante


This contribution to the Festschrift for Professor Thomas (Tom) D. Pollard focuses on his work on the elucidation of the protein organization within the cytokinetic nodes, protein assemblies, precursors to the contractile ring. In particular, this work highlights recent discoveries in the molecular organization of the proteins that make the contractile machine in fission yeast using advanced microscopy techniques. One of the main aspects of Tom’s research philosophy that marked my career as one of his trainees is his embrace of interdisciplinary approaches to research. The cost of interdisciplinary research is to be willing to step out of our technical comfort zone to learn a new set of tools. The payoff of interdisciplinary research is the expansion our realm of possibilities by bringing new creative tools and ideas to push our research program forward. The rewarding outcomes of this work under Tom’s mentorship were the molecular model of the cytokinetic node and the development of new techniques to unravel the structure of multi-protein complexes in live cells. Together, these findings open a new set of questions about the mechanism of cytokinesis and provide creative tools to address them.


Cytokinesis FPALM Nodes Fission yeast Thomas Pollard 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Caroline Laplante declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


  1. Billington N, Wang A, Mao J, Adelstein RS, Sellers JR (2013) Characterization of three full-length human nonmuscle myosin II paralogs. J Biol Chem 288:33398–33410. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Chang F, Woollard A, Nurse P (1996) Isolation and characterization of fission yeast mutants defective in the assembly and placement of the contractile actin ring. J Cell Sci 109(Pt 1):131–142PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Churchman LS, Okten Z, Rock RS, Dawson JF, Spudich JA (2005) Single molecule high-resolution colocalization of Cy3 and Cy5 attached to macromolecules measures intramolecular distances through time. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 102:1419–1423. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Coffman VC, Wu P, Parthun MR, Wu JQ (2011) CENP-A exceeds microtubule attachment sites in centromere clusters of both budding and fission yeast. J Cell Biol 195:563–572. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Hachet O, Simanis V (2008) Mid1p/anillin and the septation initiation network orchestrate contractile ring assembly for cytokinesis. Genes Dev 22:3205–3216. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Huang Y, Yan H, Balasubramanian MK (2008) Assembly of normal actomyosin rings in the absence of Mid1p and cortical nodes in fission yeast. J Cell Biol 183:979–988. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Huang F, Schwartz SL, Byars JM, Lidke KA (2011) Simultaneous multiple-emitter fitting for single molecule super-resolution imaging. Biomed Opt Express 2:1377–1393. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Huang F et al (2013) Video-rate nanoscopy using sCMOS camera-specific single-molecule localization algorithms. Nat Methods 10:653–658. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Kamasaki T, Osumi M, Mabuchi I (2007) Three-dimensional arrangement of F-actin in the contractile ring of fission yeast. J Cell Biol 178:765–771. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Laplante C, Huang F, Bewersdorf J, Pollard TD (2016a) High-speed super-resolution imaging of live fission yeast cells. Methods Mol Biol 1369:45–57. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Laplante C, Huang F, Tebbs IR, Bewersdorf J, Pollard TD (2016b) Molecular organization of cytokinesis nodes and contractile rings by super-resolution fluorescence microscopy of live fission yeast. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:E5876–E5885. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Laporte D, Coffman VC, Lee IJ, Wu JQ (2011) Assembly and architecture of precursor nodes during fission yeast cytokinesis. J Cell Biol 192:1005–1021. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Maupin P, Pollard TD (1986) Arrangement of actin filaments and myosin-like filaments in the contractile ring and of actin-like filaments in the mitotic spindle of dividing HeLa cells. J Ultrastruct Mol Struct Res 94:92–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. McDonald NA, Lind AL, Smith SE, Li R, Gould KL (2017) Nanoscale architecture of the Schizosaccharomyces pombe contractile ring. Elife 6.
  15. Motegi F, Mishra M, Balasubramanian MK, Mabuchi I (2004) Myosin-II reorganization during mitosis is controlled temporally by its dephosphorylation and spatially by Mid1 in fission yeast. J Cell Biol 165:685–695. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Pollard TD, Wu JQ (2010) Understanding cytokinesis: lessons from fission yeast. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 11:149–155. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Saha S, Pollard TD (2012) Anillin-related protein Mid1p coordinates the assembly of the cytokinetic contractile ring in fission yeast. Mol Biol Cell 23:3982–3992. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Silva AM et al (2016) Robust gap repair in the contractile ring ensures timely completion of cytokinesis. J Cell Biol 215:789–799. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Sohrmann M, Fankhauser C, Brodbeck C, Simanis V (1996) The dmf1/mid1 gene is essential for correct positioning of the division septum in fission yeast. Genes Dev 10:2707–2719CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Stachowiak MR, Laplante C, Chin HF, Guirao B, Karatekin E, Pollard TD, O'Shaughnessy B (2014) Mechanism of cytokinetic contractile ring constriction in fission yeast. Dev Cell 29:547–561. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Swulius MT, Nguyen LT, Ladinsky MS, Ortega DR, Aich S, Mishra M, Jensen GJ (2018) Structure of the fission yeast actomyosin ring during constriction. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:E1455–E1464. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Vavylonis D, Wu JQ, Hao S, O'Shaughnessy B, Pollard TD (2008) Assembly mechanism of the contractile ring for cytokinesis by fission yeast. Science 319:97–100. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Wollrab V, Thiagarajan R, Wald A, Kruse K, Riveline D (2016) Still and rotating myosin clusters determine cytokinetic ring constriction. Nat Commun 7:11860. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Wu JQ, Pollard TD (2005) Counting cytokinesis proteins globally and locally in fission yeast. Science 310:310–314. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Wu JQ, Kuhn JR, Kovar DR, Pollard TD (2003) Spatial and temporal pathway for assembly and constriction of the contractile ring in fission yeast cytokinesis. Dev Cell 5:723–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wu JQ, McCormick CD, Pollard TD (2008) Chapter 9: counting proteins in living cells by quantitative fluorescence microscopy with internal standards. Methods Cell Biol 89:253–273. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Zhang M et al (2012) Rational design of true monomeric and bright photoactivatable fluorescent proteins. Nat Methods 9:727–729. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary MedicineNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

Personalised recommendations