Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How skin cells protect themselves against stress

12.12.2018

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.


The molecular transmission of force in desmosomes was studied before (blue), during (green) and after (red) application of mechanical stress.

WWU - AG Grashoff

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.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr. Carsten Grashoff
University of Münster, Institute for Molecular Cell Biology
Tel: +49 251 83-23841
grashoff@uni-muenster.de

Originalpublikation:

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

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>