Navigation Links
Simple model cell is key to understanding cell complexity
Date:5/15/2008

A team of Penn State researchers has developed a simple artificial cell with which to investigate the organization and function of two of the most basic cell components: the cell membrane and the cytoplasm--the gelatinous fluid that surrounds the structures in living cells. The work could lead to the creation of new drugs that take advantage of properties of cell organization to prevent the development of diseases. The team's findings will be published later this month (late May 2008) in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"Many scientists are trying to understand cells by turning off genes, one at a time, and are observing the effects on cell function, but we're doing the opposite," said Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine D. Keating, who led the research. "We're starting from scratch, adding in components to find out what is needed to simulate the most basic cell functions. Our goal is to find out how much complexity can be observed in very simple collections of molecules."

Building on previous work that was published in the 16 January 2008 issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society, Keating and her colleagues built a model cell using as the cytoplasm a solution of two different polymers: polyethyleneglycol (PEG) and dextran. The researchers encapsulated this polymer solution inside a cell membrane and, because the two polymers do not mix, one of the phases surrounded the other like the white of an egg around a yolk. The team then exposed the cell to a concentrated solution of sugar. Through a process known as osmosis--in which water diffuses across a cell membrane from a region of higher water concentration to a region of lower water concentration--water traveled from the relatively diluted polymer solution inside the cell to the more concentrated sugar solution outside the cell. As a result, the volume of the polymer solution inside the membrane was reduced.

With a cell membrane that was now too large and also unconstrained by its spherical shape, the cell converted to a budded form. A dextran-rich mixture filled the bud while a PEG-rich mixture remained inside the body of the cell. This new structure exhibited the type of complexity that the team had been looking for; it exhibited polarity. "Polarity is critical to development," said Keating. "It is an important first step in the development of a complex multi-cellular organism, like a human being, in which different cells perform different functions."

In previous work, the team created a membrane that was entirely uniform, but in their most recent paper, they describe an asymmetric membrane containing a mixture of lipid molecules. Some of these lipid molecules contained tiny pieces of PEG, which interacted with the PEG in the cytoplasm, thus generating polarity in the model cell. "Our work demonstrated the interrelationship of the cytoplasm and the cell membrane," said Keating.

The team's next step is to create a cascade in polarity. "By creating a model cytoplasm with different compositions, we demonstrated that we can control the behavior of cell membranes," said Keating. "Now we want to find out what will happen if, for example, we add an enzyme whose activity depends on the compositions of the cytoplasm and cell membrane."

Although Keating and her colleagues plan to continue adding components to their model cell, they don't expect to make a real cell. "We aren't trying to generate life here. Rather, we want to understand the physical principles that govern biological systems," said Keating. "For me the big picture is trying to understand how the staggering complexity observed in biological systems might have arisen from seemingly simple chemical and physical principles."


'/>"/>

Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Salt-tolerant gene found in simple plant nothing to sneeze at
2. Simple screening questionnaire for kidney disease outperforms current clinical practice guidelines
3. Simple recipe turns human skin cells into embryonic stem cell-like cells
4. Simple reason helps males evolve more quickly
5. Researchers develop simple method to create natural drug products
6. Gene regulation in humans is closer than expected to simple organisms
7. Safe water: simpler method for analyzing radium in water samples cuts testing time
8. Model successfully predicts large river system fish diversity
9. Climate modelers see modern echo in 30s Dust Bowl
10. A model photochemical compass for bird navigation
11. In computer models and observations, researchers see potential for significant red tide season
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Simple model cell is key to understanding cell complexity
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/7/2016)... -- Syngrafii Inc. and San Antonio Credit Union (SACU) ... Syngrafii,s patented LongPen™ eSignature "Wet" solution into SACU,s ... in greater convenience for SACU members and operational ... document workflow and compliance requirements. Logo ... Highlights: ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... The Weather Company , an IBM Business (NYSE: IBM ... which consumers will be able to interact with IBM Watson ... or text and receive relevant information about the product or ... long sought an advertising solution that can create a one-to-one ... valuable; and can scale across millions of interactions and touchpoints. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has announced ... biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" ... commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors ... such as WDR5 represent an exciting class of ... precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances have ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SANTA MONICA, Calif. , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer ... to pioneer increasingly precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of ... 77 institutions across 15 countries. Read More About the ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample ... the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, has joined STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. ... said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO of STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... LONDON , June 23, 2016 ... & Hematology Review, 2016;12(1):22-8 http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 ... Review , the peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, ... the escalating cost of cancer care is placing ... a result of expensive biologic therapies. With the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: