Cytokinesis is the final step of cell division, and is a process that requires a precisely coordinated molecular machinery to fully separate the cytoplasm of the parent cell and to establish the intact outer cell barrier of the daughter cells. Among various cytoskeletal proteins involved, septins are known to be essential mediators of cytokinesis. In this Commentary, we present recent observations that specific cell divisions can proceed in the absence of the core mammalian septin SEPT7 and its Drosophila homolog Peanut (Pnut) and that thus challenge the view that septins have an essential role in cytokinesis. In the pnut mutant neuroepithelium, orthogonal cell divisions are successfully completed. Similarly, in the mouse, Sept7-null mutant early embryonic cells and, more importantly, planktonically growing adult hematopoietic cells undergo productive proliferation. Hence, as discussed here, mechanisms must exist that compensate for the lack of SEPT7 and the other core septins in a cell-type-specific manner. Despite there being crucial non-canonical immune-relevant functions of septins, septin depletion is well tolerated by the hematopoietic system. Thus differential targeting of cytokinesis could form the basis for more specific anti-proliferative therapies to combat malignancies arising from cell types that require septins for cytokinesis, such as carcinomas and sarcomas, without impairing hematopoiesis that is less dependent on septin.
Keywords: Cell division; Cytokinesis; Cytoskeleton; Hematopoiesis; Sept7; Septin.
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.