In the fly embryo, the Twist gene is normally expressed only in the ventral region (above)
When rhe embryo is pressed between two slides (below) in the dorsal region.
In this and the following plate, Twist proteins and ß catenin are labeled with a fluorescent green protein
The pressure of the embryo perturbs the localization of ß catenin, a protein which ensures cohesion between cells within tissues.
When mechanical pressure is applied to the embryo, ß catenin enters the cell nucleus (on right), whereas to perform its role as an "adhesive" between cells it must be on the cell surface.
During its growth, an embryo changes shape under the control of the so-called developmental genes. Emmanuel Farge, a researcher at the Institut Curie, lecturer at the Paris VII University, and member of the Institut Universitaire de France, has just shown that mechanical pressure applied to a fly embryo influences the expression of its developmental genes. So not everything is purely genetic and some features of the living cell are also mechano-sensitive.
It remains to be seen whether this phenomenon also applies to human tissues. And could the growth of a tumor that compresses tissues play a role in gene deregulation?
These results published in the 19 August issue of Current Biology are likely to change the way geneticists think.
Catherine Goupillon | Institut Curie
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