Navigation Links
Animal cells can communicate by reaching out and touching, UCSF team discovers
Date:1/2/2014

In a finding that directly contradicts the standard biological model of animal cell communication, UCSF scientists have discovered that typical cells in animals have the ability to transmit and receive biological signals by making physical contact with each other, even at long distance.

The mechanism is similar to the way neurons communicate with other cells, and contrasts the standard understanding that non-neuronal cells "basically spit out signaling proteins into extracellular fluid and hope they find the right target," said senior investigator Thomas B. Kornberg, PhD, a professor of biochemistry with the UCSF Cardiovascular Research Institute.

The paper was published on January 2, 2014 in Science.

Working with living tissue from Drosophila fruit flies Kornberg and his team demonstrated that cells send out long, thin tubes of cytoplasm called cytonemes, which Kornberg said "can extend across the length of 50 or 100 cells" before touching the cells they are targeting. The point of contact between a cytoneme and its target cell acts as a communications bridge between the two cells.

"It's long been known that neurons communicate in a similar way by transferring signals at points of contact called synapses, and transmitting the response over long distances in long tubes called axons," said Kornberg. "However, it's always been thought that this mode of signaling was unique to neurons. We have now shown that many types of animal cells have the same ability to reach out and synapse with one another in order to communicate, using signaling proteins as units of information instead of the neurotransmitters and electrical impulses that neurons use."

In fact, said Kornberg, "I would argue that the only strong experimental data that exists today for a mechanism by which these signaling proteins move from one cell to another is at these points of contact and via cytonemes."

However, he noted, "There are 100 years worth of work and thousands of scientific papers in which it has been simply assumed that these proteins move from one cell to another by moving through extracellular fluid. So this is a fundamentally different way of considering how signaling goes on in tissues."

Working with cells in the Drosophila wing that produce and send the signaling protein Decapentaplegic (Dpp), Kornberg and his team showed that Dpp transfers between cells at the sites where cytonemes form a connection, and that cytonemes are the conduits that move Dpp from cell to cell.

The scientists discovered that the sites of contact have characteristics of synapses formed by neurons. They demonstrated that in flies that had been genetically engineered to lack synapse-making proteins, cells are unable to form synapses or signal successfully.

"In the mutants, the signals that are normally taken up by target cells are not taken up, and signaling is prevented," said Kornberg. "This demonstrates that physical contact is required for signal transfer, signal uptake and signaling."

Kornberg said that a major reason that animal cell cytonemes had not been observed or studied previously is because these structures are too fragile to survive traditional laboratory methods of preparing cells for imaging. "During the last decade or so, though, there have been fantastic technical advances, including new techniques in genetic engineering, new microscopes that improve the resolution and sensitivity for imaging living cells and the development of fluorescent marker proteins that we can attach to proteins of interest."

Using these new technologies, Kornberg and his team have captured vivid images, and even movies, of fluorescent signaling proteins moving through fluorescently marked cytonemes.

"We are not saying that cells always use cytonemes for signaling," Kornberg cautioned. "Hormones, for example, are another method of long distance cell signaling. A cell that takes up insulin does not care where that insulin came from a pancreas or an intravenous injection. But there are signals of a specialized type, such as those that pass between stem cells and the cells around them, or signals that determine tissue growth, patterning and function, where the identity of the communicating cells must be precisely defined. It's important that these signals are received in the context of the cells that are making them."

Kornberg noted that other research teams have made observations that suggest that cytoneme-based signaling may also occur "between stem cells and the cells that instruct them on what they are going to do and where they are going to go." Cancer cells may also use this method to communicate with their neighbors, he said.

The discovery of animal cell cytonemes and the critical role they play in long distance signaling "opens up a wonderful biology of which we have very little understanding at this point," said Kornberg. "For example, how do these cytonemes find their targets? How do they know when they have found them? These are some of the questions that we are pursuing."


'/>"/>

Contact: Peter Farley
peter.farley@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Penn-led team reduces toxicity associated with Lou Gehrigs disease in animal models
2. Serengetis animals under pressure
3. Understanding ourselves by studying the animal kingdom
4. Bacteria may allow animals to send quick, voluminous messages
5. A fish that pushes in the wrong direction solves a mystery of animal locomotion
6. Animal welfare scientists reveal infrequent and inconsistent acceptance of existing data by EPA to satisfy endocrine disruptor testing requirements
7. Tagging aquatic animals can disrupt natural behavior
8. Aboriginal hunting practice increases animal populations
9. Why plants usually live longer then animals
10. Clean living is a luxury wild animals cant afford, study suggests
11. Coastal animals have their own tidal timer -- separate from the 24-hour body clock
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/22/2017)... 2017   Neurotechnology , a provider of ... announced the release of the SentiVeillance 6.0 ... facial recognition using up to 10 surveillance, security ... The new version uses deep neural-network-based facial detection ... utilizes a Graphing Processing Unit (GPU) for enhanced ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... March 21, 2017 Vigilant Solutions , ... law enforcement agencies, announced today the appointment of retired ... of public safety business development. Mr. Sheridan ... experience, including a focus on the aviation transportation sector, ... recent position, Mr. Sheridan served as the Aviation Liaison ...
(Date:3/20/2017)... , March 20, 2017 PMD Healthcare ... personal spirometer and Wellness Management System (WMS), a remote, ... Founded in 2010, PMD Healthcare is a Medical Device, ... a mission dedicated to creating innovative solutions that empower ... With that intent focus, PMD developed the first ever ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/24/2017)... ... May 24, 2017 , ... Today, the South ... Recovery’s Advanced Biological Nutrient Recovery (ABNR™) technology at its 4,000,000 gallon per day ... upgrade to sustainably meet current and future nutrient discharge regulations. The ABNR platform, ...
(Date:5/24/2017)... BOSTON , May 23, 2017 As Ebola ... with four deaths and 20 suspected cases now reported, ... via the PubMed database, showed a correlation between the 2014 ... gene Replikin counts rose sharply in 2012-13, which preceded the ... rise in the Ebola gene Replikin counts in 2014-15, which ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... ... its 20th anniversary, marking the occasion with a strong presence at Bio-IT World ... Reception and further extends an invitation to all attendees to view posters ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... Energetiq Technology, a ... a facility expansion to accommodate its rapid growth. , The renovations at the ... renovation of the existing areas. The expansion includes, a state-of-the-art engineering facility, and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: