Cell biologists at the University of Münster have developed a new method for measuring how mechanical forces in cells are processed. The results have been published in the journal “Nature Communications”.
The skin is our largest organ, and, among other things, it provides protection against mechanical impacts. To ensure this protection, skin cells have to be connected to one another especially closely. Exactly how this mechanical stability is provided on the molecular level was unclear for a long time.
Researchers in the team led by Prof. Carsten Grashoff from the Institute of Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Münster and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have been collaborating with colleagues at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Stanford University in the USA, and they are now able to demonstrate how mechanical stress on specialized adhesion points, so-called desmosomes, is processed.
They designed a mini-measuring device, which can determine forces along individual components of the desmosomes. In the study, published in “Nature Communications”, they show how mechanical forces propagate along these structures.
Cells in the skin stick together
Our skin acts as a protective shield against external influences and has to withstand very different stresses. It has to be able to stretch but must not tear when exposed to great strains.
To fulfil this mechanical function, skin cells form specialized adhesion points, so-called desmosomes, which strengthen the adhesion between cells. Patients with deficient desmosomes suffer from severe skin disorders, which arise after the exposure to mechanical stress.
What was hitherto barely understood, however, was how mechanical forces impact on the individual components of the desmosomes. The international group of researchers has developed a method for analysing the molecular forces at these adhesion points.
Miniature spring balance measures force in desmosomes
“This technique functions in way that is similar to a miniature spring scale,” says Anna-Lena Cost from the Max Planck Institute, who is one of the lead authors of the study. The force sensor consists of two fluorescent dyes, which are connected with an extensible peptide.
The peptide acts as a spring, which is stretched by just a few piconewtons – which in turn leads to a change in the dyes’ radiance. The researchers are able to read this change with a microscope so that mechanical differences at individual binding points can be determined. In their experiments, the researchers discovered that desmosomes are not exposed to any mechanical stress as long as external forces are absent.
If cells are pulled – as it frequently happens in the skin – then mechanical stress becomes apparent in the desmosomes. These forms of stress depend on the force magnitude and its orientation. “When there is only a low level of mechanical stress, other structures in the cell can carry the burden. But if a high degree of stress occurs, then desmosomes come to the rescue,” summarizes Anna-Lena Cost.
Prof. Dr. Carsten Grashoff
University of Münster, Institute for Molecular Cell Biology
Tel: +49 251 83-23841
Price, J. A.; Cost, A. L.; Ungewiß, H.; Waschke, J.; Dunn, A. R.; Grashoff, C. Mechanical loading of desmosomes depends on the magnitude and orientation of external stress. Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07523-0.
Dr. Kathrin Kottke | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Looking for new antibiotics
08.04.2020 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Research against the corona virus - tissue models for rapid drug testing
08.04.2020 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung ISC
Published by Marc Tudela, Laura Becerra-Fajardo, Aracelys García-Moreno, Jesus Minguillon and Antoni Ivorra, in Access, the journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
The project Electronic AXONs: wireless microstimulators based on electronic rectification of epidermically applied currents (eAXON, 2017-2022), funded by a...
The Belle II experiment has been collecting data from physical measurements for about one year. After several years of rebuilding work, both the SuperKEKB electron–positron accelerator and the Belle II detector have been improved compared with their predecessors in order to achieve a 40-fold higher data rate.
Scientists at 12 institutes in Germany are involved in constructing and operating the detector, developing evaluation algorithms, and analyzing the data.
Electrolytes play a key role in many areas: They are crucial for the storage of energy in our body as well as in batteries. In order to release energy, ions - charged atoms - must move in a liquid such as water. Until now the precise mechanism by which they move through the atoms and molecules of the electrolyte has, however, remained largely unknown. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now shown that the electrical resistance of an electrolyte, which is determined by the motion of ions, can be traced back to microscopic vibrations of these dissolved ions.
In chemistry, common table salt is also known as sodium chloride. If this salt is dissolved in water, sodium and chloride atoms dissolve as positively or...
Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.
Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...
90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous
An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...
07.04.2020 | Event News
06.04.2020 | Event News
02.04.2020 | Event News
08.04.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
08.04.2020 | Information Technology
08.04.2020 | Medical Engineering