Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

An embryonic cell’s fate is sealed by the speed of a signal

05.08.2014

When embryonic cells get the signal to specialize the call can come quickly. Or it can arrive slowly. Now, new research from Rockefeller University suggests the speed at which a cell in an embryo receives that signal has an unexpected influence on that cell’s fate. Until now, only concentration of the chemical signals was thought to matter in determining if the cell would become, for example, muscle, skin, brain or bone.

“It turns out that if ramped up slowly enough an otherwise potent signal elicits no response from the receiving cells. Meanwhile, a pulsing, on-off signal appears to have a stronger effect than a constant one,” says researcher Ali Brivanlou, Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Vertebrate Embryology. This research is the latest collaboration between Brivanlou and Eric Siggia, Viola Ward Brinning and Elbert Calhoun Brinning Professor at Rockefeller’s Center for Studies in Physics and Biology.


Tempting fate. To visualize cells’ responses to the signals that ultimately lead them to choose a fate, the researchers engineered a protein involved in this response, Smad4, to glow. In response to a pulse of signal molecules, Smad4 moves into the dark nuclei of the cells, causing them to glow briefly.

“Until now, it has not been feasible to test how speed or other temporal dynamics affect a cell’s response to a signal. However, by adapting technology that allows for very precise control over these aspects, we found unequivocal evidence that signal level alone does not determine a cell’s fate. Its presentation is also extremely important,” Siggia says.

Together, the team dubbed their discovery “speed fating.” Their work will be published in August in Developmental Cell.

Biologists know a cell determines its location in an embryo and, as a result, its future role, based on chemical cues from its neighbors. About 50 years ago, the developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert proposed that this determination hinges on the concentration of the signal to which a cell is exposed: Go above a certain threshold and you get one fate, below and you get a second. His proposal is known as the French flag model, after a tri-color graph used to represent three cell fates based on those cells’ positions with respect to the source of the signal.

Prior work from Brivanlou and Siggia had cast doubt on the sole importance of concentration. Using a common developmental signaling pathway known as TGF-β, the team documented what is known as an adaptive response from cells exposed to TGF-β signaling molecules. This response peaked then declined over time, even though the signaling molecules remained present. (Think of how a constant noise eventually blends into the background.) If concentration was the sole factor responsible for a response, then the response should have continued as long as the signal was present.

To follow up on this work, Benoit Sorre, a former Rockefeller postdoc now at the University of Paris Diderot, adapted a system that makes use of miniaturized networks of pipes, pumps, valves and sample chambers all under computer control. For experiments, he teamed up with Aryeh Warmflash, the postdoc who lead the previous TGF-β work. Together, they worked with mouse cells that have the potential to differentiate into muscle, or cartilage and bone. Progenitor cells like these, which can differentiate into a limited set of tissues, are the offspring of stem cells. In experiments using Sorre’s new system, the researchers exposed these progenitor cells to signaling molecules from the TGF-β pathway, and then recorded the cells’ responses to see if the signal activated the pathway that leads them to choose a fate.

Sorre and Warmflash started with a continuous signal. As Warmflash’s previous work suggested, this finger-stuck-on-the-buzzer approach did not produce a continuous response from the cells. Instead, the response declined. A second set of tests showed a series of brief pulses of signal produced a greater response than one continuous signal.

Gradually increasing the concentration of the signal, however, appeared to have the opposite effect. The researchers ramped up the concentration of the signal over periods as brief as five hours or as long as 40 hours. The longer the period and the slower the rate of increase, the weaker the cells’ response. The cells subjected to a 40-hour run barely registered at all.

Based on these experiments, the team formulated a mathematical model to describe how a cell in an embryo may infer its position in relation to the source of the signal. In this way, the research offers a new take on the French flag model: It is still true that the fates of three cells can be mapped out based on their position, but the cells appear to arrive at these fates more rapidly than previously thought, thanks to the adaptive response that takes into account both the level and speed of a signal.

“This finding is another instance of a productive collaboration between biologists and physicists. Neither group, biologists or physicists, could have realized this result working alone,” Siggia says.

Zach Veilleux | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://newswire.rockefeller.edu/2014/08/04/an-embryonic-cells-fate-is-sealed-by-the-speed-of-a-signal/

Further reports about: Biology Laboratory Molecular evidence experiments offspring pathway

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular Spies to Fight Cancer - Procedure for improving tumor diagnosis successfully tested
03.08.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

nachricht Stroke: news about platelets
03.08.2015 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Glaciers melt faster than ever

Glacier decline in the first decade of the 21st century has reached a historical record, since the onset of direct observations. Glacier melt is a global phenomenon and will continue even without further climate change. This is shown in the latest study by the World Glacier Monitoring Service under the lead of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service, domiciled at the University of Zurich, has compiled worldwide data on glacier changes for more than 120 years. Together...

Im Focus: Quantum Matter Stuck in Unrest

Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.

What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...

Im Focus: On the crest of the wave: Electronics on a time scale shorter than a cycle of light

Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.

The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...

Im Focus: Superfast fluorescence sets new speed record

Plasmonic device has speed and efficiency to serve optical computers

Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.

Im Focus: Unlocking the rice immune system

Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight

A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Euro Bio-inspired - International Conference and Exhibition on Bio-inspired Materials

23.07.2015 | Event News

Clash of Realities – International Conference on the Art, Technology and Theory of Digital Games

10.07.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

“Seeing” molecular interactions could give boost to organic electronics

03.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

Stroke: news about platelets

03.08.2015 | Life Sciences

Molecular Spies to Fight Cancer - Procedure for improving tumor diagnosis successfully tested

03.08.2015 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>