Cells flex their muscles to stir themselves
An international team of scientists led by the University of Göttingen has discovered a new biological transport mechanism in cells. The researchers from the Faculty of Physics, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Rice University in Houston developed and applied a new method to visualize and track single molecules inside living cells and whole organisms.
An international team of scientists led by the University of Göttingen has discovered a new biological transport mechanism in cells.
Foto: M. Leunissen, Dutch Data Design
They found out that cells use the same motor proteins that serve in muscle contraction to vigorously and actively stir their interior. The results were published in the journal Science.
For long-distance transport cells usually employ motor proteins that are tied to lipid vesicles, the cell’s ‘cargo containers’. An example is the transport of proteins along the long axons of nerve cells.
This process involves considerable logistics: cargo, such as proteins synthesized elsewhere in the cell, needs to packed, attached to motor proteins and sent off in the right direction. By utilizing extremely thin nanotubes serving as beacons of light, the scientists now found that cells also use a much simpler and more economical mechanism to facilitate local transport in their crowded interior.
“Much in the way a chemist would accelerate a reaction by shaking a test tube, cells stir their cytoskeleton,“ explains the leader of the study, Prof. Dr. Christoph Schmidt of Göttingen University’s Third Institute of Physics. “This activity results in a global internal stirring of the cell.“ The new discovery not only promotes the understanding of cell dynamics, but also points to interesting possibilities in designing active technical materials.
Original publication: Nikta Fakhri et al. High resolution mapping of intracellular fluctuations using carbon nanotubes. Science 2014. Doi: 10.1126/science.1250170.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Schmidt
Georg-August University Göttingen
Faculty of Physics – Third Institute of Physics
Friedrich-Hund-Platz 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
Phone +49 551 39-7740
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