Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Under pressure: Mechanical stress is a key driver of cell-cell fusion, study finds


Just as human relationships are a two-way street, fusion between cells requires two active partners: one to send protrusions into its neighbor, and one to hold its ground and help complete the process. Researchers have now found that one way the receiving cell plays its role is by having a key structural protein come running in response to pressure on the cell membrane, rather than waiting for chemical signals to tell it that it's needed. The study, which helps open the curtain on a process relevant to muscle formation and regeneration, fertilization, and immune response, appears in the March 9 issue of the journal Developmental Cell.

"We knew that in cell fusion, one cell attacks its fusion partner, but we didn't know what the other cell was doing," says Elizabeth Chen, Ph.D. , an associate professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Now we know that the other cell is putting up some resistance."

Myosin (red) swarms to the site where a cell is probed.

Credit: Win Pin Ng and Sungmin Son

The merging of two cells, which is crucial to conception, development and physiology of complex organisms, was long thought to be a symmetrical process, where two cells contribute equally. But two years ago, Chen's research group showed that, in fact, one of the fusion partners initiates the process by extending fingerlike protrusions into the other partner.

For this study, Chen's group and collaborators focused on the receiving partner. Using fruit fly embryos and lab-grown fly cells that were induced to fuse, they saw that in the areas where the attacking cells drilled in, the receiving cells quickly fortified their cellular skeletons, effectively pushing back.

"We think that by stiffening its skeleton in this way, the receiving cell avoids moving away from the attacking cell, in which case fusion couldn't occur," Chen says. "The interplay of the two cells pushing against one another brings the two cell membranes into close proximity so that fusion can proceed."

But how were the cellular skeleton's building blocks, such as the protein myosin II, being summoned to the fusion site? To find out, Chen's group altered cell surface proteins that are known to relay chemical signals in the receiving cells of fly embryos.

"In most of the cells, we still saw myosin swarm to the fusion site, despite the fact that chemical signaling had been disabled," Chen says. In other words, myosin is able to sense and respond to pressure on the outside of the cell. Myosin's "mechanosensory" response was also seen when Chen's collaborators used either a tiny pipette to apply a pulling force or a tiny probe to apply a pushing force to lab-grown cells.

There is much still to learn about the cell fusion process, however. Next, Chen's group plans to examine how pressure is conveyed from the cell membrane to its skeleton and which proteins on the membrane facilitate fusion.


Other authors on the paper are Ji Hoon Kim, Yixin Ren, Shuo Li, Yee-Seir Kee, Shiliang Zhang and Douglas N. Robinson of The Johns Hopkins University; Win Pin Ng, Sungmin Son and Daniel A. Fletcher of the University of California, Berkeley; and Guofeng Zhang of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Read the Developmental Cell article.

Media Contact

Shawna Williams


Shawna Williams | EurekAlert!

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: 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...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

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

Enormous dome in central Andes driven by huge magma body beneath it

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Deep down fracking wells, microbial communities thrive

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>