A cytokinetic ring-driven cell rotation achieves Hertwig's rule in early development

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 Jun 18;121(25):e2318838121. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2318838121. Epub 2024 Jun 13.


Hertwig's rule states that cells divide along their longest axis, usually driven by forces acting on the mitotic spindle. Here, we show that in contrast to this rule, microtubule-based pulling forces in early Caenorhabditis elegans embryos align the spindle with the short axis of the cell. We combine theory with experiments to reveal that in order to correct this misalignment, inward forces generated by the constricting cytokinetic ring rotate the entire cell until the spindle is aligned with the cell's long axis. Experiments with slightly compressed mouse zygotes indicate that this cytokinetic ring-driven mechanism of ensuring Hertwig's rule is general for cells capable of rotating inside a confining shell, a scenario that applies to early cell divisions of many systems.

Keywords: actomyosin; biophysics; cell biology; cytokinesis; development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans* / embryology
  • Cytokinesis / physiology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Mice
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Rotation
  • Spindle Apparatus* / metabolism
  • Zygote / cytology
  • Zygote / growth & development
  • Zygote / metabolism