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: Precise measurements of microbial ecosystems

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

How calcium regulates mitochondrial carrier proteins

13 hours ago

Mitochondrial carriers are a family of proteins that play the key role of transporting a chemically diverse range of molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carriers are part of ...

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

14 hours ago

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Students create microbe to weaken superbug

Nov 25, 2014

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo have designed a synthetic organism that may one day help doctors treat MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug.

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.