Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How a Wound Closes

24.02.2015

Heidelberg researchers decode molecular mechanism of collective cell migration important for wound healing

For wounds to close, cells need to move collectively in one direction in a coordinated fashion. Until now the central molecular mechanism that allows cells to coordinate these movements over larger distances has been unclear. Now researchers from Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart have succeeded in decoding it. Collective cell migration is not only important in wound healing, but also in the development of the embryo and even of cancer. The results of their research, published in the journal “Nature Cell Biology”, have tremendous implications for all three of these areas.


Epithelial cells move collectively out of their original shape (left) into the environment (right). Localisation of Merlin is shown in green, the cell nuclei in red.

Picture: Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems

“The collective migration of cells and biological systems is one of the most important natural phenomena and occurs in nature at different levels and length scales. We have now identified the key molecular player and the related mechanism that controls the collective migration of epithelial cells, that is the covering layer of skin cells,” explains Prof. Dr. Joachim Spatz of the Institute for Physical Chemistry at Heidelberg University and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. In their investigation, the researchers introduce a complete molecular mechanism that focuses on the protein called Merlin. The results link intercellular mechanical forces to collective cell movements and also demonstrate how local interactions give rise to collective dynamics at the multicellular level. “They create an analogy with what we already know about collective movements observable in both the biological and physical world,” explains Prof. Spatz.

The researcher compares the process of cell migration to running a marathon. “At the level of the organism, an individual in a collective consciously tries to align its movements with those of its neighbours, which involves orchestrated sensing and action.” Within a cellular collective, these two processes are linked via signal transduction pathways. There is a lead cell in the collective, similar to the leader in a marathon. It is mechanically connected to its follower cells by cell-to-cell contacts. The forward motion of the lead cell puts mechanical tension on the follower cells, according to Spatz. The merlin protein senses this mechanical tension and initiates spatially polarised following movement. This transmits the mechanical tension among the follower cells from one cell to the next. The follower cells respond by forming ‘leg-like’ protrusions directed at the lead cell in order to move forward.

“Until now it has been unclear what molecular link connects these two events, sensing and action,” says Joachim Spatz. “Our study now shows how the mechanosensitive Merlin protein converts cellular forces to collective cell motions by acting as a mechanochemical transducer. What’s truly astonishing is that Merlin is the only protein in the responsible signal network that conveys this property to cellular collectives – that there are no replacement mechanisms. If Merlin fails, the cells lose their ability to move collectively and trigger the related medically relevant, pathophysiological properties in the organism”.
The major player in the study, Merlin, is also a known tumour suppressor that is responsible for several types of cancer. Merlin is also a regulator of the Hippo pathway, an important signal pathway in biology that controls cell proliferation and organ size. It has been preserved in evolution since the emergence of primitive multicellular organisms. “It’s exciting to see a connection between these seemingly disparate fields, linked by a Merlin-mediated signalling mechanism,” says the researcher.

Researchers from the Hamamatsu Tissue Imaging and Analysis (TIGA) Center at the BioQuant Centre of Ruperto Carola and the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg also participated in the study.

Original publication:
T. Das, K. Safferling, S. Rausch, N. Grabe, H. Boehm, J. Spatz: A molecular mechanotransduction pathway regulates collective migration of epithelial cells. Nature Cell Biology (published online 23 February 2015), doi: 10.1038/ncb3115

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Joachim Spatz
Institute of Physical Chemistry
Phone: +49 6221 54-4942
joachim.spatz@urz.uni-heidelberg.de

Communications and Marketing
Press Office
Phone: +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

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 we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>