Biologists publish findings on cell interactions

Aug 03, 2010
This image shows a montage of clusters of cells adhering to each other by matching gamma-protocadherin proteins, which are shown in false color and arranged for artistic effect. Credit: Original photos by Dietmar Schreiner; montage by Joshua Weiner.

Two University of Iowa biologists have published a paper on how cells make specific interactions during development -- in the hope of one day learning more about human developmental disorders -- in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dietmar Schreiner, postdoctoral researcher, and Joshua A. Weiner, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, write on the subject of . Cell adhesion is the way in which one cell binds itself to another cell by using specific molecules, one large family of which is known as the cadherins.

The researchers found that when a specific kind of cadherin molecule -- the 22-member gamma-protocadherin family -- are involved in linking adjacent cells together, it exponentially expands the molecular diversity and specificity with which cells can interact.

"We already knew that with 22 different members, the gamma-protocadherin family was diverse, and we had already shown that they are critical for the developing nervous system," said Weiner. "But what Dietmar was able to do here, for the first time, is develop a quantitative method to determine how each gamma protocadherin protein mediates cell-cell adhesion, and which family members can interact with each other. He finds that the proteins seem to freely associate in groups of four at the surface of each cell, but that in order for another cell to bind, it must have pretty much the exact same group of four. What this means is that, if you figure out all the possible combinations of gamma-protocadherins, this group of proteins can form over 200,000 distinct adhesive surfaces."

One implication of the work is that scientists have gained a better understanding of the ways in which cell linkages, including those made during the formation and modification of synapses, the points of communication between , might go awry in a number of developmental disorders such as autism and mental retardation, as well as how brain circuits assemble correctly during normal development.

In the future, the researchers plan to study directy how the differential interactions mediated by the many combinations of gamma-protocadherins affects the formation of in the developing brain, and what adhesion mediated by these proteins "tells" a young neuron to do.

Explore further: Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

Provided by University of Iowa - Health Science

not rated yet

Related Stories

Research Reveals How Materials Direct Cell Response

Apr 18, 2005

New Georgia Tech research indicates how cells “sense” differences in biomaterial surface chemistry. The findings explain how biomaterials influence cells and could be used to develop new classes of materials to improve ...

Capturing the birth of a synapse

May 27, 2009

Researchers have identified the locking mechanism that allows some neurons to form synapses to pass along essential information. Mutations of genes that produce a critical cell-adhesion molecule involved in ...

The closest look ever at native human tissue

Dec 05, 2007

Seeing proteins in their natural environment and interactions inside cells has been a long-standing goal. Using an advanced microscopy technique called cryo-electron tomography, researchers from the European ...

Researchers develop mouse model for muscle disease

Sep 05, 2006

Researchers from the University of Minnesota have identified the importance of a gene critical to normal muscle function, resulting in a new mouse model for a poorly understood muscle disease in humans.

Protein found to control the early migration of neurons

Jul 27, 2010

Long before a baby can flash her first smile, sprout a first tooth or speak a first word, the neurons that will form her central nervous system must take their first, crucial steps. And these steps must be careful to take ...

Recommended for you

Top Japan lab dismisses ground-breaking stem cell study

5 hours ago

Japan's top research institute on Friday hammered the final nail in the coffin of what was once billed as a ground-breaking stem cell study, dismissing it as flawed and saying the work could have been fabricated.

Research sheds light on what causes cells to divide

Dec 24, 2014

When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ...

Locking mechanism found for 'scissors' that cut DNA

Dec 24, 2014

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered what keeps an enzyme from becoming overzealous in its clipping of DNA. Since controlled clipping is required for the production of specialized immune system proteins, ...

Scrapie could breach the species barrier

Dec 24, 2014

INRA scientists have shown for the first time that the pathogens responsible for scrapie in small ruminants (prions) have the potential to convert the human prion protein from a healthy state to a pathological ...

Extracting bioactive compounds from marine microalgae

Dec 24, 2014

Microalgae can produce high value health compounds like omega-3s , traditionally sourced from fish. With declining fish stocks, an alternative source is imperative. Published in the Pertanika Journal of Tr ...

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.