Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cells are crawling all over our bodies, but how?

19.10.2011
Biologists at Florida State devise new way to watch how cells move

For better and for worse, human health depends on a cell's motility –– the ability to crawl from place to place. In every human body, millions of cells –are crawling around doing mostly good deeds ––– though if any of those crawlers are cancerous, watch out.


This is an electron microscope image of two crawling worm sperm magnified ~5,000X. Credit: Courtesy, Tom Roberts, FSU Dept. of Biological Science

"This is not some horrible sci-fi movie come true but, instead, normal cells carrying out their daily duties," said Florida State University cell biologist Tom Roberts. For 35 years he has studied the mechanical and molecular means by which amorphous single cells purposefully propel themselves throughout the body in amoeboid-like fashion ––absent muscles, bones or brains.

Meanwhile, human cells don't give up their secrets easily. In the body, they use the millions of tiny filaments found on their front ends to push the front of their cytoskeletons forward. In rapid succession the cells then retract their rears in a smooth, coordinated extension-contraction manner that puts inchworms to shame. Yet take them out of the body and put them under a microscope and the crawling changes or stops.

But now Roberts and his research team have found a novel way around uncooperative human cells.

In a landmark study led by Roberts and conducted in large part by his then-FSU postdoctoral associate Katsuya Shimabukuro, researchers used worm sperm to replicate cell motility in vitro –– in this case, on a microscope slide.

Doing what no other scientists had ever successfully done before, Shimabukuro disassembled and reconstituted a worm sperm cell, then devised conditions to promote thecell's natural pull-push crawling motions even in the unnatural conditions of a laboratory. Once launched, the reconstituted machinery moved just like regular worm sperm do in a natural setting –– giving scientists an unprecedented opportunity to watch it move.

Roberts called his former postdoc's signal achievement "careful, clever work" –– and work it did, making possible new, revealing images of cell motility that should help to pinpoint with never-before-seen precision just how cells crawl.

"Understanding how cells crawl is a big deal," Roberts said. "The first line of defense against invading microorganisms, the remodeling of bones, healing wounds in the skin and reconnecting of neuronal circuits during regeneration of the nervous system –– all depend on the capacity of specialized cells to crawl.

"On the downside, the ability of tumor cells to crawl around is a contributing factor in the metastasis of malignancies," he said. "But we believe our achievements in this latest round of basic research could eventually aid in the development of therapies that target cell motility in order to interfere with or block the metastasis of cancer."

Funding for Robert's worm-sperm study came from the National Institutes of Health. The findings are described in a paper ("Reconstitution of Amoeboid Motility In Vitro Identifies a Motor-Independent Mechanism for Cell Body Retraction") published online in the journal Current Biology.

Why worm sperm?

For one thing, said Roberts, the worm sperm is different from most cells in that itdoesn't use molecular motor proteins to facilitate its contractions; it shimmies along strictly by putting together and tearing down its tiny filaments. And the simple worm sperm makes a good model because, while it is similar to a human cell it has fewer moving parts, making it less complicated to take apart and reassemble than, say, brain or cancer cells.

Armed with the newfound ability to reconstitute amoeboid motility in vitro, cell biologists such as Roberts may be able to learn the answers to some major moving questions. Among them: How can some cells continue to crawl even after researchers have disabled their supply of myosin, the force-producing "mover protein" that functions like a motor to help power muscle and cell contraction?

For Roberts and his team, the next move will be to determine if what they've learned about worm sperm also applies to more conventional crawling cells, including tumor cells.

"As always, there will be more questions," Roberts said. "Are there multiple mechanisms collaborating to drive cell body retraction? Is there redundancy built into the motility systems?"

Co-authors of the Current Biology paper include Roberts, a professor in the FSU Department of Biological Science; Shimabukuro, a former FSU postdoctoral associate in biology who now is a research scientist at the Japan Science and Technology Agency; Naoki Noda, of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass.; and Murray Stewart, of the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Thomas A. Roberts | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fsu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>