The extracellular matrix guides the orientation of the cell division axis

Nat Cell Biol. 2005 Oct;7(10):947-53. doi: 10.1038/ncb1307. Epub 2005 Sep 18.


The cell division axis determines the future positions of daughter cells and is therefore critical for cell fate. The positioning of the division axis has been mostly studied in systems such as embryos or yeasts, in which cell shape is well defined. In these cases, cell shape anisotropy and cell polarity affect spindle orientation. It remains unclear whether cell geometry or cortical cues are determinants for spindle orientation in mammalian cultured cells. The cell environment is composed of an extracellular matrix (ECM), which is connected to the intracellular actin cytoskeleton via transmembrane proteins. We used micro-contact printing to control the spatial distribution of the ECM on the substrate and demonstrated that it has a role in determining the orientation of the division axis of HeLa cells. On the basis of our analysis of the average distributions of actin-binding proteins in interphase and mitosis, we propose that the ECM controls the location of actin dynamics at the membrane, and thus the segregation of cortical components in interphase. This segregation is further maintained on the cortex of mitotic cells and used for spindle orientation.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / physiology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Time Factors


  • Actins