Both basic scientists and clinicians have an interest in how the cells of our body move. Cells must be mobile in order for organisms to grow, to heal, to transmit information internally, to mount immune responses and to conduct a host of other activities necessary for survival. But if cell mobility is unregulated, tumors can grow and spread throughout the body.
A new multi-disciplinary study by University of Pennsylvania researchers has now illuminated a crucial step in the process of cell movement. The protein they examined, Exo70, induces a reshaping of the cell's plasma membrane, a necessary step in how a cell migrates from one location to another.
The findings deepen the understanding of how cells initiate movement, and they have implications for conditions dependent on cell migration, including cancer.
The research, published in the journal Developmental Cell, was co-led by graduate students Yuting Zhao and Jianglan Liu, both members of senior author Wei Guo's lab in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology. Liu is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Wistar Institute. The work involved a collaboration with researchers at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Previous research on cell migration had focused on actin, a protein that forms filaments and branches and is known to play a role in a variety of activities, including those that involve remodeling a cell's shape. But Guo and other scientists believed there had to be other factors aiding the reshaping of cellular membranes.
"The plasma membrane is not a rubber band," Guo said. "It's hard to imagine actin just pushing it to change its shape. There had to be a mechanism to accommodate the actin, otherwise the membrane would be ruptured."
That's when Guo's team thought of Exo70. His lab is focused on exocytosis, or the organized process by which cells carry proteins to the membrane in
|Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie|
University of Pennsylvania