The so-called cellular slime mold, a unicellular organism that may transition into a multicellular organism under stress, has just been found to have a tissue structure that was previously thought to exist only in more sophisticated animals.
What's more, two proteins that are needed by the slime mold to form this structure are similar to those that perform the same function in more sophistical animals.
Shortly after an animal embryo forms, it develops a single layer of cells that, shaped like a hollow ball, is empty at its center. Acting as a kind of "man behind the curtain" that directs these cells to organize into this hollow formation are several proteins that help each cell touch its neighbors but keep its top surface exposed to the formation's empty interior.
Even after animals grow beyond the embryo stage, the cells in many organs of their bodies maintain this type of hollow structure. These organs include those in the digestive tracts of animals, which feature a layer of cells, called epithelial cells, that face inward to form a hollow structure and are shaped asymmetrically to give organs their directionality. For example, the asymmetric epithelial cells of animal intestines face inward to form a hollow structure through which nutrients are absorbed. Likewise, the asymmetric epithelial cells of animal glands, such as salivary and endocrine glands, also face inward to form a hollow structure. But instead of absorbing substances as do the epithelial cells of animal intestines, these glandular epithelial cells secrete into their hollow structure substances that they produce.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Daniel Dickinson, W. James Nelson and William Weis--all of Stanford University--took a careful look at the final, mature stage of slime mold development under a high-powered microscope. They report their results in the journal Science, March 11, 2011.
The slime mold spends most of its life as a single-celled organism, living in soil and preying on bacteria. However when food runs short, thousands of slime mold cells aggregate to form a mound. They then grow into a fruiting body--which is a stalk, a few millimeters tall, whose top peeks over the surface of the ground and holds spores. The researchers found that the organization and directionality of cells in this top part of the extending stalk are surprisingly similar to those of the epithelial cells of some organs of higher animals.
Dickinson and his colleagues also discovered that in order for the cells in the top of the slime mold's stalk to organize into an epithelium, they need analogues to two of the many proteins that are needed by animal cells to organize into an epithelium. Called alpha-catenin and beta-catenin, these slime mold analogues are genetically and biochemically similar to their animal versions. And when the researchers removed these analogues from the cells of slime molds, they lost their ability to organize correctly.
In addition to requiring proteins that are similar to those required by some animal epithelial tissues, the slime mold's epithelium tissue behaves similarly to the epithelial tissue of some animals--it is secretory. It secretes proteins that coat the stalk of the fruiting body and give it the rigidity it needs to send its spores out onto the ground in search of new food.
"We don't know whether the ancient ancestor of slime molds and animals was actually able to form an epithelium," says Dickinson, "but it must have had alpha-catenin and beta-catenin, and we suspect that these proteins had some role in organizing cells."Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman | EurekAlert!
Funding of Collaborative Research Center developing nanomaterials for cancer immunotherapy extended
28.06.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Zeolite catalysts pave the road to decentral chemical processes Confined space increases reactivity
28.06.2017 | Technische Universität München
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...
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...
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...
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...
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)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine