Background: The asymmetric division of cells and unequal allocation of cell contents is essential for correct development. This process of active segregation is poorly understood but in many instances has been shown to depend on the cytoskeleton. Motor proteins moving along actin filaments and microtubules are logical candidates to provide the motive force for asymmetric sorting of cell contents. The role of myosins in such processes has been suggested, but few examples of their involvement are known. Results: Analysis of a Caenorhabditis elegans class VI myosin deletion mutant reveals a role for this motor protein in the segregation of cell components during spermatogenesis. Mutant spermatocytes cannot efficiently deliver mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi-derived fibrous-body membranous organelle complexes to budding spermatids, and fail to remove actin filaments and microtubules from the spermatids. The segregation defects are not due to a global sorting failure as nuclear inheritance is unaffected. Conclusions: C. elegans myosin VI has an important role in the unequal partitioning of both organelles and cytoskeletal components, a novel role for this class of motor protein.
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