Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

When it comes to speaking out, cells wait their turn

06.09.2011
Revealing how cells communicate, Tel Aviv University research could lead to new cancer drugs and more

Cell communication is essential for the development of any organism. Scientists know that cells have the power to "talk" to one another, sending signals through their membranes in order to "discuss" what kind of cell they will ultimately become — whether a neuron or a hair, bone, or muscle. And because cells continuously multiply, it's easy to imagine a cacophony of communication.

But according to Dr. David Sprinzak, a new faculty recruit of Tel Aviv University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, cells know when to transmit signals — and they know when it's time to shut up and let other cells do the talking. In collaboration with a team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Sprinzak has discovered the mechanism that allows cells to switch from sender to receiver mode or vice versa, inhibiting their own signals while allowing them to receive information from other cells — controlling their development like a well-run business meeting.

Dr. Sprinzak's breakthrough can lead to the development of cancer drugs that specifically target these transactions as needed, further inhibiting or encouraging the flow of information between cells and potentially stopping the uncontrollable proliferation of cancer cells. Dr. Sprinzak's research appeared in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Over and out

A cell's communications behavior is mediated by the "Notch signalling pathway," one of the major communication channels between neighboring cells. Information is transferred between cells when Notch receptors from one cell come into contact with Delta molecules, or signals, from another cell. But when the same Delta molecules interact with Notch receptors in the same cell, Dr. Sprinzak found, they shut down their activity and prevent reception of signals from the outside world.

The researchers set out to learn how. In the lab, Dr. Sprinzak and his team attached fluorescent proteins to both Notches and Deltas to track the flow of information. What they found was that the Notch receptors and the Delta signals are actually capable of binding to each other, effectively shutting down each other's activity and forcing the cells into either sender or receiver modes.

"In one state, a cell can send a message and not receive, and in the other it receives and cannot send. They can talk or listen, but they cannot do both at the same time," says Dr. Sprinzak. He compares this communications system to a walkie talkie, in which only one user may be "on the air" at a time.

This switch is crucial to helping the cells make yes-and-no decisions in which neighboring cells adopt distinct fates. Such "cell fate" decisions are responsible for formation of boundaries between developmental tissues, such as those between the vertebrae protecting our spine. They can also account for many patterns of differentiation in the body, such as the pattern of neurons in our brain, or sensory hairs in the inner ear.

Far from enigmatic, this process can actually be seen in the lab. By measuring the fluorescence in real time, it is possible to watch how the levels of a cell's own Delta activity affect the ability of a cell to transfer messages to its neighbors.

Understanding biology through mathematical models

Sender and receiver behavior, says Dr. Sprinzak, not only determines how cells differentiate normally, but also how they differentiate in abnormal situations, such as when cancer cells are growing.

A physicist-turned-biologist, Dr. Sprinzak will next apply mathematical models to analyze the dynamics between the cells and quantify the switch between sender and receiver. Part of an emerging field called Systems Biology, Dr. Sprinzak's work uses tools from mathematics and physics to understand biology on a systematic level. Mathematical equations can help us to better understand the interactions between the genes and proteins in our body which determine cellular behavior and differentiation, he says.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (www.aftau.org) supports Israel's leading, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning. Independently ranked 94th among the world's top universities for the impact of its research, TAU's innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 10 other universities.

Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship, Tel Aviv University consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.

George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aftau.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

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 the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>