Sweet nothings: Artificial vesicles and bacterial cells communicate by way of sugar components

Jun 05, 2008

For an organism to develop and function, the individual cells must exchange information, or communicate, with each other. Is it possible to learn their language and “talk to” the cells?

Yes it is: Cameron Alexander and George Pasparakis at the University of Nottingham (UK) have been able to facilitate a conversation between bacterial cells and artificial polymer vesicles. In the journal Angewandte Chemie they report that this first communication occurred by way of sugar groups on the vesicle surface. The vesicles subsequently transfer information to the cells—in the form of dye molecules.

Complex structures made of many sugar components on the surfaces of cells are the “language” used for processes such as cell recognition, for example, in the differentiation of tissues or the identification of endogenous cells and foreign invaders. Scientists would like to be able to use this glycocode to “address” target cells and to intervene directly in cellular processes to treat diseases or to guide regeneration of damaged tissues.

The British scientists took an interesting route to learn more about the “language” of cells: they constructed vesicles, tiny capsules whose outer shell is made of special polymer building blocks. Their special trick: the polymer chains are equipped with side chains bearing glucose units that wind up being exposed on the vesicle surface.

The researchers brought the vesicles together with bacteria that have glucose-binding proteins on their surface. The behavior of the bacteria varies depending on the polymer’s composition and the size of the vesicles. Among the bacteria were some individuals that enter into very strong bonds with large vesicles. These associated bacteria are then in a position to receive molecular “information” from the vesicles: dye molecules that were previously placed in the vesicles transferred specifically into the interior of these bacteria.

“Our vesicles can be viewed as simple replicas of living cells,” says Alexander, “that can communicate with real cells by way of the glycocode as well as through signal molecules inside the vesicles.” Possible applications include drug transporters that deliver their cargo to specific target cells, or antibiotic transporters that deliver their toxic load exclusively to infectious agents.

Citation: Cameron Alexander, Sweet Talking Double Hydrophilic Block Copolymer Vesicles, Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, 47, No. 26, 4847–4850, doi: 10.1002/anie.200801098

Source: Angewandte Chemie

Explore further: Researchers bring clean energy a step closer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Onion' vesicles for drug delivery developed

Jun 10, 2014

One of the defining features of cells is their membranes. Each cell's repository of DNA and protein-making machinery must be kept stable and secure from invaders and toxins. Scientists have attempted to replicate ...

Recommended for you

Researchers bring clean energy a step closer

Feb 27, 2015

For nearly half a century, scientists have been trying to replace precious metal catalysts in fuel cells. Now, for the first time, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have shown that an inexpensive metal-free catalyst ...

The construction of ordered nanostructures from benzene

Feb 27, 2015

A way to link benzene rings together in a highly ordered three-dimensional helical structure using a straightforward polymerization procedure has been discovered by researchers from RIKEN Center for Sustainable ...

Superatomic nickel core and unusual molecular reactivity

Feb 27, 2015

A superatom is a combination of two or more atoms that form a stable structural fragment and possess unique physical and chemical properties. Systems, that contain superatoms, open a number of amazing possibilities ...

Oat breakfast cereals may contain a common mold-related toxin

Feb 25, 2015

Oats are often touted for boosting heart health, but scientists warn that the grain and its products might need closer monitoring for potential mold contamination. They report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that s ...

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.