Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dancing with the cells

16.06.2015

Cells “dance” as they draw together during early embryo development

The same kind of contraction that fires our muscles also controls a key stage of mammalian embryo development, according to a new study published in Nature Cell Biology. The research, conducted at EMBL Heidelberg, measured and mapped how cells in very early stage embryos bond tightly together. The scientists also discovered a cellular behaviour that hadn’t been observed before: cells in the embryo ‘dance’, each one making the same rhythmic movement.


The scientists measured the force required to change the shape of the cells by gently deforming each cell with a pipette. IMAGE: J.L. Maitre/EMBL

The focus of the study was a stage of development known as compaction, which takes place when the embryo has eight cells. Compaction changes the embryo from a loosely attached group of cells to a closely bonded single entity. During compaction – which takes around 10 hours – the cells change shape to create the overall form of the embryo, increasing the area of contact between them.

Using a new method, the researchers were able to measure the forces required to change the shape of the cells as compaction progressed.

Being able to chart the tension within the embryo without destroying it meant they were able to investigate which cellular process was the main driver behind the compaction process.
The first contender was a process known as adhesion. This is controlled by E-cadherin, an adhesion molecule on the cell surface that sticks cells together, ’zipping up’ the two surfaces as the molecules attach to each other. Earlier research had shown that when adhesion was blocked, compaction did not take place.

The second contender was cell contraction, a process controlled by myosin, a type of motor protein that also causes contractions in muscle fibres. Myosin ‘walks’ on tracks formed by another protein, actin. Every cell has a layer of actin underneath its membrane, and myosin contracts this cortical layer, controlling the tension of the cell surface. The EMBL Heidelberg team had also established that compaction did not take place if a cell’s ability to contract was blocked.

Postdoctoral researcher and first author, Jean-Léon Maître, explains: “By measuring the tensions of the cells when each cellular process was blocked, we were able to prove it was a contraction that pulls the cells together to compact the embryo, rather than adhesion acting as a glue to ‘stick’ them together. Adhesion is obviously important, but it appears to work as an anchor, rather than an engine of the compaction process.”

This discovery was made possible by combining biological expertise from the group led by Takashi Hiiragi with that of the physicists working in the Nédéléc group.

Hervé Turlier explains: “The research showed that it was the increased tension at the outer surface of the embryo that drives the compaction, rather than the relaxation of the cell to cell contacts. In fact, the changing ratio between these two tensions now provides us with a simple way to portray the compaction process despite the complex biological mechanisms taking place.”

At the same time as compaction but on a shorter timescale, the team observed that the cells start to ‘dance’. The ‘dance’ is caused by a wave of contraction that bends the surface of the cell, traveling round it every 80 seconds.

“We’ve no idea at the moment if this ‘dance’ is important,” says Hiiragi. “All we know is that it happens at the same time as compaction and is controlled by the same process.”

Embryonic cells in other animals are known to pulse every 80 seconds, but this particular form of the movement hasn’t been observed before. Further research will hopefully unveil the details underlying this peculiar phenomenon.


Published online in Nature Cell Biology on 15 June 2015. DOI: 10.1038/ncb3185.
For images, video and more information please visit:

http://www.embl.org/press/2015/150615_Heidelberg

Isabelle Kling | EMBL

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>