Researchers have discovered important details of a vital process that enables cells to divide correctly into two.
Their findings shed light on the molecular processes that determine how and when key proteins combine, to help create a site required for accurate DNA separation over generations.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used biophysical and cell biology techniques to better understand the assembly of a key set of proteins known as Mis18.
Their study offers insights as to how the Mis18 protein complex controls the accumulation of another protein, known as CENP-A.
The CENP-A collects at a site where the dividing cell's DNA - which is packaged into a pair of chromosomes - connects and then divides into two cells.
By studying the molecular mass of the constituent Mis18 proteins as they combined, researchers were able to determine how many proteins of each type assembled to form a functional Mis18 complex.
They also found how a further protein, known as Cdk1, controls the timing of Mis18 assembly, by temporarily modifying one of the proteins involved to prevent it from binding the others.
The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, was published in EMBO reports.
Dr Jeyaprakash Arulanandam, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the study, said: "These findings provide valuable insights into how cells help preserve the site essential for equal distribution of their DNA when they divide, and how the timing of this process is tied to the cell cycle."