Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fly Cells Flock Together, Follow the Light

21.06.2010
Scientists at Johns Hopkins report using a laser beam to activate a protein that makes a cluster of fruit fly cells act like a school of fish turning in social unison, following the lead of the one stimulated with light.

The study of this unexpected cell movement, reported May 16 in Nature Cell Biology, holds potential importance for understanding embryonic development, wound healing and tumor metastasis — the process by which tumor cells acquire the ability to invade surrounding tissues and migrate long distances to colonize lymph nodes, bones and other distant organs.

The research dramatically demonstrates, the researchers say, the collective direction-sensing behavior of live cells in intact tissue, and a means of controlling protein behavior in a living organism by shining a focused beam of light precisely on the parts of cells where they want the protein to be active.

“Our little system in the fruit fly is an elegant example of cells behaving socially in their natural environment — surrounded by other cells,” says Denise Montell, Ph.D., a professor of biological chemistry and director of the Center for Cell Dynamics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “You can’t capture this behavior if you look at individual cells in a culture dish.”

The “social” migrating behavior among a cluster of cells in the fly ovary surprised the research team, which was using a new laser light tool to manipulate protein activity.

“People tend to think of cancer as single cells breaking off from the tumor and migrating away,” Montell says, but it’s likely that this collective form of movement is important, at one phase or another, in the spread of tumors.”

A better understanding of how and why cells move can facilitate the development of new treatments not only for cancer but other disorders characterized by aberrant cell behavior.

Developed in the laboratory of Klaus Hahn, Ph.D., Thurman Professor of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the light-activation technique previously had been shown to control cell movement in cultured mammalian cells. The Hopkins-led study provides proof of principle that a non-toxic light alone can activate a protein in live organisms, allowing researchers to safely control when and where cells move.

The Hopkins team conducted their study on a cluster of six so-called border cells in the fly ovary, cells the team has long studied and which are important to the fly because if they don’t migrate, females are sterile. In addition they serve as a model for understanding the mechanisms that control collective cell movements in general, which occur during normal embryonic development, wound healing and in tumor metastasis.

First, they genetically altered the border cells so that they were lacking the ability to respond to naturally occurring chemical attractants that normally control their movement. Then they used a fly protein known as Rac, which was fused to a photoactivatable (PA) plant protein, a creation engineered by Hahn’s lab. The PA-Rac, which remains inert in the dark, reacts to light because the plant protein changes shape and allows Rac to become active, causing the cells to move.

Because a beam of laser light can be much smaller than a cell, the team was able to activate Rac not only in one single cell, but also in one part of one cell, Montell says: “The other cool thing is this is reversible, so as soon as you take the light away, the PA-Rac wraps back up and turns itself off.”

Following up on previous research, the team wanted to find out if Rac would be sufficient to set the direction of movement of cells within live tissue.

When they shined a laser beam on various individual cells, the entire cluster responded by moving in directions that it wouldn’t under normal conditions: sideways, for instance, and even in reverse. In short, they followed the light.

“When we activated Rac in even one part of one of these cells — and not in the cell that would be the leader if all was normal — it was as if all the other cells said, Aha! You’ve got more Rac activity so we’re heading your way,” Montell says. “It’s amazing to me that somehow the cells sense each others’ levels of Rac activity and collectively decide which way to go.

Authors on the paper, in addition to Montell and Hahn, are Xiaobo Wang from Johns Hopkins and Yi Wu from UNC.

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Cell Migration Consortium.

On the Web:

A video clip of a photo-activatable form of Rac is available at: http://www.icm.com/montell/MovieS5%28RacQ61Lforwardandrev%29.mov

Denise Montell Lab: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/dmontell/

Nature Cell Biology: http://www.nature.com/ncb/index.html

Cell Migration Consortium: http://www.cellmigration.org/index.shtml

Maryalice Yakutchik | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.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 >>>