Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The glue that keeps cells together

14.06.2017

Studies conducted by the Biocentre shed new light on cell-cell contacts: Physical effects play an important role in their generation and stability as the journal "Nature Physics" reports.

Controlled adhesion and division are crucial for our body's cells. This is the case, for instance, when the organs develop in an embryo or when broken skin is repaired during the healing process.


Snapshots of the bond of a giant vesicle on a plane model membrane. Dark pixels mark the points of contact between the membranes. They grow larger and more numerous over time.

(Picture: Susanne Fenz)

The importance of close cell-cell adhesion becomes evident especially when it is dysfunctional, for example when cells become loose in a tumour and break free. The tumour cell complex tends to dissolve in this case and create metastases.

Cadherins as key actors

The cadherin proteins assume a central role in the above mentioned examples. Located in the cell membranes, they are capable of creating strong bonds both among themselves and with the cadherins of other cells. A bond between two cadherin molecules of two cells triggers the formation of extensive contact zones.

The process of establishing and detaching contacts seems to be much more dependent on purely physical effects than thought previously. This is shown by computer simulations and experiments published in "Nature Physics" by Dr Susanne Fenz from the University of Würzburg's Biocentre with colleagues from Jülich, Stuttgart, Erlangen and Marseilles.

Connecting model membranes

The biophysicist brought together model membranes containing cadherin and then selectively changed different physical parameters that influence the membrane's fluctuation behaviour such as the concentration of sugar and salt.

"We observed that already very small changes had a huge impact on the formation and growth of cell-cell contacts," says Dr Fenz, who leads a junior research group at the Department for Cell and Developmental Biology (Zoology I). "So it is possible to regulate a biological process by changing only physical parameters such as the temperature or local lipid composition of the membrane."

But according to Fenz, it is still doubtful to what extent the results for the model membranes can be transferred to living systems. "We will have to confirm the relevance of our observations in living systems," says Susanne Fenz.

Focus on pathogens that cause sleeping sickness

The Würzburg researcher has a general interest in the biophysics of membranes. For example, she also studies the pathogens that cause the sleeping sickness. The protozoa of the species Trypanosoma are one of Professor Markus Engstler's focal areas of research; he is the head of the Department for Zoology I at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) in Würzburg, Germany.

What's special about the cell membrane of Trypanosoma is that it is densely populated with a protein shell that is varied continuously in a population. This high variability of the protein shell allows the pathogens to hide efficiently from the immune systems of animals and humans.

Membrane fluctuations mediate lateral interaction between cadherin bonds. Susanne F. Fenz, Timo Bihr, Daniel Schmidt, Rudolf Merkel, Udo Seifert, Kheya Sengupta & Ana-Sunčana Smith. Nature Physics, 12. June 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nphys4138

Contact

Dr Susanne Fenz, head of the junior research group "Physics of the Cell", Biocentre of the University of Würzburg, JMU, T +49 931 31-89712, susanne.fenz@uni-wuerzburg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://rdcu.be/tpWy The Nature Physics publication
http://www.zeb.biozentrum.uni-wuerzburg.de/people/staff_scientists/susanne_fenz/ Website of Dr Susanne Fenz

Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Further information:
http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rochester scientists discover gene controlling genetic recombination rates
23.04.2018 | University of Rochester

nachricht One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale

23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve

23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Clean and Efficient – Fraunhofer ISE Presents Hydrogen Technologies at the HANNOVER MESSE 2018

23.04.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>