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Sociable receptors: In pairs, in groups or in a crowd
Date:2/5/2014

Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. He has been studying the language of the cells for years together with colleagues in his department. Their research focuses on the so-called Eph receptors and their ephrin ligands.

Cell communication via ephrin/Eph receptors comes into play in most encounters between cells. As a result of this communication, one cell usually repels the other, which continues to grow in another direction. Many such instances of interaction guide the cell to the right place. The guidance system itself the ephrins and Eph receptors are found on the cell surface. When the ephrin and the Eph receptor of two opposing cells meet, they form an ephrin/Eph complex. This triggers cellular processes in one or both of the cells, which eventually cause the detachment of the ephrin/Eph complex and the repulsion of the two cells from one another.

"Many receptor systems have developed a security mechanism to prevent false alarms from triggering the cellular processes", explains Rdiger Klein. "A signal is only transmitted to the cell if two receptor/ligand pairs form a dimer." However, in the case of ephrins and Eph receptors, things are different. Ephrin/Eph complexes form dimers, but often also larger groups on the cell membranes. Scientists were previously not sure how this affects repulsion and repulsive signalling strength.

The neurobiologists in Martinsried and their colleagues from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund have now been able to artificially trigger and study the formation of groups of Eph receptors in cell culture. The results show that the otherwise usual dimers are inactive when made up of Eph receptors. Only trimers and tetramers triggered the signals that caused cell repulsion. However, the scientists' working hypothesis that a larger group would trigger a stronger signal turned out to be too simple. "It took us quite some time to figure out the system", says Andreas Schaupp, first auth
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Contact: Stefanie Merker
merker@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3514
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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