Human cells can 'feel' neighbours with fingers
Thursday 21 September, 2017

Human cells can ‘feel’ neighbours with fingers

Published On: Fri, Dec 26th, 2014 | Cell Biology | By BioNews

Human cells have finger-like projections that they use to feel their surroundings, says a study, adding that these can detect the chemical environment and can “feel” their physical surroundings using ultra-sensitive sensors.

Called filopodia, these finger-like structures can extend themselves, contract and bend in dynamic movements, said the team from the Niels Bohr Institute at University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

“The filopodia structures are very dynamic and can both contract and elongate and bend actively in all directions,” said Poul Martin Bendix, associate professor at Niels Bohr Institute.

Filopodia can bring messages back to the cell about both the chemical environment and the physical surroundings.

The image shows how the actin within the filopodia contracts while it forms a spiral-shaped structure. The actin inside the filopodium exhibits a marked rotational movement and when it contracts, it spiral-shaped folds form – just like when you twist an elastic band, holding tight to one end and pulling the other. (Credit: Niels Bohr Institute)

The image shows how the actin within the filopodia ontracts while it forms a spiral-shaped structure. The actin inside the filopodium exhibits a marked rotational movement and when it contracts, it spiral-shaped folds form – just like when you twist an elastic band, holding tight to one end and pulling the other. (Credit: Niels Bohr Institute)

In many biological processes, cell interaction and communication with their environment are critical to their functioning.

For example, the cells use the filopodia structures for correct development of the embryo, for growing nerve cells and when cells (like macrophages) need to migrate towards pathogenic bacteria in order to remove them.

“The new results show a surprising new mechanism where rotation is converted into a mechanical feature that makes it possible for the cell to interact with neighbouring cells,” Bendix said.

The results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Reference:
Natascha Leijnse, Lene B. Oddershede, and Poul M. Bendix. Helical buckling of actin inside filopodia generates traction
PNAS 2014 ; published ahead of print December 22, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1411761112

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