At the Institut Curie, the CNRS team of Yohanns Bellaïche has just discovered a new cellular component that participates in the organization of cells in the epithelium. This tissue, which forms a barrier between our body and the outside world, is an extremely coherent structure of myriad cells that fit together according to very precise rules. This cohesion holds together the tissues that compose the organs and controls the "comings and goings" of various substances between the outside world and our body.
When cellular adhesives come unstuck… One of the components of the exocyst has been inactivated in these cells. The two cellular adhesives – cadherin (pink) and _-catenin (blue) – are dispersed through the cytoplasm instead of being localized essentially at the membranes, to form the intercellular junction. © J. Langevin/Institut Curie
The Institut Curie CNRS researchers’ discovery sheds light on how cells "stick together", thereby ensuring the cohesion needed for proper bodily functioning, but also clarifies the problems that may arise if this cellular cohesion is impaired. When tumor cells no longer stick together, they can move around and invade other tissues. This leads to a risk of propagation via metastases, which complicates the treatment of cancer.
These results are published in the September 2005 issue of Developmental Cell.
The epithelium lines all the cavities of our body. Like a border, it separates inside from out: the skin isolates us from the outside world, epithelial cells lining the small intestine separate the intestinal cavity – the "lumen" – from the rest of the body. The epithelium also regulates "toing and froing" across the border, since its cells are polar – they have a sort of compass which tells them which way is out and which in:
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