Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


How Sugar Molecules Influence Embryonic Development

Heidelberg researchers show that mannose bound to proteins is essential to the formation of cell-to-cell contacts

Sugar molecules are crucial to cell adhesion, the specific interaction between cells, and hence to the development of the embryo. This is the conclusion reached by Prof. Dr. Sabine Strahl and her team at the Centre for Organismal Studies at Heidelberg University.

Early phase of embryonic development
Image source: M. Loibl and S. Strahl

Their research shows that a special form of glycosylation, in which sugar molecules bind to proteins, is essential to the function of E-cadherin-mediated cell adhesion. According to Prof. Strahl, differentiation of the embryo is impossible if this protein modification is lacking. The results of the research were published in the journal “PNAS”.

In the early phase of embryonic development, the fertilised egg divides, forming a ball of loosely bound cells called the morula. For a compact cell packet and finally a complex organism to develop, the cells first need to bind tightly together.

Cell adhesion molecules like E-cadherin are essential in this process. Cadherins are proteins that enable tissues to bind together and cells to communicate with one another. In all living organisms, numerous sugar molecules are bound to proteins after biosynthesis. This process, called glycosylation, is critical for growth and development. “The lack of certain sugar residues can lead to serious congenital development disorders in humans,” explains Prof. Strahl.

The research team was now able to demonstrate in the mouse model why a certain type of glycosylation, called protein O-mannosylation, is critical to early embryonic development. The researchers proved that the E-cadherin protein carries mannose, sugar molecules present on the surface of the embryonic cells as of the four-cell stage of development. If biosynthesis of these E-cadherin-bound sugar residues is inhibited, functional cell connections cannot form and the cells cannot bind together with any stability. This leads to death of the embryo even before it can embed itself in the womb.

“The causal relationship we demonstrated between the sugar residues and cadherin-mediated cell adhesion shows that this protein modification is much more important than originally believed,” says Sabine Strahl. “In view of the important functions of cadherins in development processes in vertebrates as well as in tumour metastasis, our work is extremely relevant in many areas of the life sciences and medical research.” Based on the results of their research, the Heidelberg scientists now plan to investigate the significance of this protein modification in the genesis of cancer.

Their research was funded by the “Glycobiology/Glycomics” programme of the Baden-Württemberg Foundation. Scientists from the Gene Center of the University of Munich (LMU) also contributed to the research work.

Internet information:
Original publication:
M. Lommel, P.R. Winterhalter, T. Willer, M. Dahlhoff, M.R. Schneider, M.F. Bartels, I. Renner-Müller, T. Ruppert, E. Wolf, and S. Strahl: Protein O-mannosylation is crucial for E-cadherin-mediated cell adhesion, PNAS (2 December 2013), doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316753110
In the early phase of embryonic development, the fertilised egg divides and within two days forms a ball of loosely bound cells called the morula. The bonds between these cells are fortified, resulting in a compact cell packet, the blastocyst. In the mouse, sugar residues bound to E-cadherin (mannose; green) can be detected on the surface of the embryonic cells starting at the four-cell stage. If their biosynthesis is inhibited, the cells cannot form stable bonds during the transition from the morula to the blastula stage. A blastocyst cannot be formed and the faulty embryos are resorbed.

Image source: M. Loibl and S. Strahl

Prof. Dr. Sabine Strahl
Centre for Organismal Studies (COS)
Phone +49 6221 54-6286
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: 49 6221 54-2311

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>