Why are elephants bigger than mice? The main reason is that mice have fewer cells. Research published in Journal of Biology this week uncovers a key pathway that controls the number of cells in an animal, thereby controlling its size.
Ernst Hafen and his colleagues from the University of Zürich used fruit flies to investigate the role of the insulin-signalling pathway and in particular a molecule called FOXO. If insulin signalling is reduced, for example by starving developing fly larvae, FOXO activity increases; this then reduces the number of cells in the developing flies, causing them to be smaller.
Mammals have similar a signalling pathway, and it has been suggested to have a role in tumour formation. Hafen’s work gives us more insights into how disruption of FOXO function can lead to cancer.
Gemma Bradley | alfa
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