Scientists from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, have now deciphered the mechanism that illustrates how these mobile cells move on diverse surfaces.
"Similar to a car, these cells have an engine, a clutch and wheels which provide the necessary friction," explains Michael Sixt, a research group leader at the MPI of Biochemistry. The results, which were developed in cooperation with colleagues from the MPI for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany, have now been published in Nature Cell Biology.
White blood cells, also called leukocytes or immune cells, fight infections in the human body in many different ways. As defence cells, they are able to invade infected tissues, detect and eliminate pathogens. Also foreign structures and wreckage of the body's own cells are disposed with their help. To cope with that task, they move a hundred fold faster than other cell types. Thereby, immune cells follow certain attractants which are released by the body's own cells or the pathogens.
However, this deformation is not enough to make a cell move. "Similar to a car, the energy has to be transferred on the street," illuminates Dr. Sixt. "We need a clutch and wheels." For this purpose, every cell carries special cell anchors on their surface: the integrins. These proteins span the envelope of the cells and are directly connected to the cell's cytoskeleton. On the outside, these anchors can stick to other cells and tissues and thus, form a connection to the outside world. "The connection between the cytoskeleton and the integrin matches the clutch," says Dr. Sixt, "the connection between the integrin and the outside world corresponds to the grasp of the wheels."Immune Cells are Cross-Country
J. Renkawitz, K. Schumann, M. Weber, T. Lämmermann, H. Pflicke, M. Piel, J. Polleux, J. P. Spatz, M. Sixt: Adaptive force transmission in amoeboid cell migration. Nature Cell Biology, November 15, 2009.
Contact:Dr. Michael Sixt
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