The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 60: 277 - 288 (2016)

Vol 60, Issue 7-8-9

Special Issue: Cell-free Extracts in Development & Cancer Research

Use of Xenopus cell-free extracts to study size regulation of subcellular structures

Published: 13 October 2016

Predrag Jevtić, Ana Milunović-Jevtić, Matthew R. Dilsaver, Jesse C. Gatlin* and Daniel L. Levy*

Department of Molecular Biology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA


Striking size variations are prominent throughout biology, at the organismal, cellular, and subcellular levels. Important fundamental questions concern organelle size regulation and how organelle size is regulated relative to cell size, also known as scaling. Uncovering mechanisms of organelle size regulation will inform the functional significance of size as well as the implications of misregulated size, for instance in the case of nuclear enlargement in cancer. Xenopus egg and embryo extracts are powerful cell-free systems that have been utilized extensively for mechanistic and functional studies of various organelles and subcellular structures. The open biochemical nature of the extract permits facile manipulation of its composition, and in recent years extract approaches have illuminated mechanisms of organelle size regulation. This review largely focuses on in vitro Xenopus studies that have identified regulators of nuclear and spindle size. We also discuss potential relationships between size scaling of the nucleus and spindle, size regulation of other subcellular structures, and extract experiments that have clarified developmental timing mechanisms. We conclude by offering some future prospects, notably the integration of Xenopus extract with microfluidic technology.


nuclear size, spindle size, developmental size scaling, midblastula transition, cancer, microfluidics

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