A particle dynamics model may provide insight into diseases and deformities linked to disruptions in cell development

Jul 30, 2014
A particle dynamics model may provide insight into diseases and deformities linked to disruptions in cell development
The cell cytoplasm (blue) interacts with the cell membrane (red) through actomyosin activity (silver rods), as simulated using the particle dynamics model. Credit: A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing

A computer-based model of cell particle dynamics shows that the lopsided torque produced by forces within a cell may explain the previously puzzling motion and shape of rotating cell pairs. The model provides novel insights that challenge current thinking about the causes of developmental abnormalities and of cancer and other diseases linked to disrupted cell rotation.

A crucial feature of the model of key particle motions, developed by Fong Yew Leong at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore, is that it spontaneously produces with the same shape and rotational characteristics as real cells.

During the development of multicellular organisms, cells rotate around each other in a coordinated manner. This rotation does not occur in some , which implies that disrupting normal cell movement may influence disease as well as development.

Isolated cells growing on flat surfaces tend not to rotate. However, two joined cells can rotate spontaneously and continuously, and will often develop a sigmoidal or 'S-shaped' interface that resembles the yin and yang symbol (see image and video). As the cells rotate, they appear to 'moonwalk' around one another; each cell moves in the opposite direction to its protrusion into the other cell and in the reverse manner to cells moving on their own.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Under the particle dynamics model, the cell rotation and sigmoidal cell shape that emerge closely resemble the characteristics of real cells. Thin solid lines inclined toward the cell membrane indicate where actomyosin activity takes place. Credit: A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing

Leong modeled the cells in two dimensions as an assembly of cytoplasm particles surrounded by a cell membrane. As cell movement is driven by the interaction of actin and myosin protein filaments in the cell's cytoskeleton, Leong designed the model to include the formation and degradation of actin and myosin chains attached to the inner cell membrane.

The simulation showed the interaction of actin and myosin within the cell—known as 'undirected actomyosin forcing'—which is powerful enough to generate the shape and movement of the cells. Crucially, as Leong explains, "forces that are angled toward the lead to an unbalanced torque that rotates the cell." He also considers the spontaneous emergence of the torque, due to the tilted forces, to be the most significant insight provided by his model.

"The next step is to develop a three-dimensional model that explains cell cluster rotation in vivo, rather than just on a two-dimensional surface," says Leong. He hopes future iterations of the rather simple current model will help explain the real-life complexity of the movements of multiple cells and ultimately advance approaches to addressing and diseases linked to the disruption of .

Explore further: How do our cells move? Liquid droplets could explain

More information: Leong, F. Y. "Physical explanation of coupled cell-cell rotational behavior and interfacial morphology: A particle dynamics model." Biophysical Journal 105, 2301–2311 (2013). DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.09.051

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How do our cells move? Liquid droplets could explain

May 01, 2014

Living cells move; not just bacteria, but also cells in our own bodies. EPFL scientists have discovered a new relationship between the three-dimensional shape of the cell and its ability to migrate. The work has important ...

Researchers uncover secrets of internal cell fine-tuning

Jul 29, 2014

New research from scientists at the University of Kent has shown for the first time how the structures inside cells are regulated – a breakthrough that could have a major impact on cancer therapy development.

Stopping cancer in its tracks?

Aug 27, 2013

We've come a long way in cancer treatments – we have powerful, effective drugs for many types of cancer and we're moving toward ever more specific, less invasive therapies. But the problem with cancer is ...

p53 cuts off invading cancer cells

Mar 24, 2014

The tumor suppressor p53 does all it can to prevent oncogenes from transforming normal cells into tumor cells by killing defective cells or causing them to become inactive. Sometimes oncogenes manage to initiate ...

Recommended for you

Japanese scientist resigns over stem cell scandal

Dec 19, 2014

A researcher embroiled in a fabrication scandal that has rocked Japan's scientific establishment said Friday she would resign after failing to reproduce results of what was once billed as a ground-breaking study on ...

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

Dec 18, 2014

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.