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Cells play 'tag' to determine direction of movement

Date:
June 17, 2013
Source:
Universidad de Barcelona
Summary:
Researchers have found that cells in our bodies, when moving collectively, carry out something similar to a game of 'tag' to coordinate their movement in a particular direction.

Trajectories of neural crest cells (blue) chasing placode tissue (purple).
Credit: Image courtesy of Universidad de Barcelona

Researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), together with researchers from King's College London and University College London have found that cells in our bodies, when moving collectively, carry out something similar to a game of 'tag' to coordinate their movement in a particular direction.

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Scientists from Barcelona and London, looked at cells in the neural crest, a very mobile embryonic structure in vertebrates that gives rise to most of the peripheral nervous system and to other cell types in the cardiovascular system, pigment cells in the skin, and some bones, cartilage, and connective tissue in the head. Researchers saw that, during development, these neural crest cells 'chase' other types of cells -- so-called placodal cells that give rise to the sensory organs -- which dash away when approached, thus propelling the cell sheet in a certain direction.

"The effect can also be likened to a donkey and carrot effect, with the neural crest cells -- the donkey -- chasing but never quite reaching the carrot, the placodal cells," explains Xavier Trepat, ICREA Research Professor of the UB and leader of the Research Group on Integrative Cell and Tissue Dynamics of IBEC. "The 'chasing' occurs when a signaling protein, Sdf1, is present, while the 'run' effect is triggered by a different protein, N-Cadherin," he adds.

Researchers' findings shed new light on collective cell migration, a critical process in development and wound healing, but which is also inherent to the development of diseases such as cancer. Understanding more about how and why cells move the way they do can lead to valuable insights into how and why cancers occur and spread.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eric Theveneau, Benjamin Steventon, Elena Scarpa, Simon Garcia, Xavier Trepat, Andrea Streit, Roberto Mayor. Chase-and-run between adjacent cell populations promotes directional collective migration. Nature Cell Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ncb2772

Cite This Page:

Universidad de Barcelona. "Cells play 'tag' to determine direction of movement." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617092449.htm>.
Universidad de Barcelona. (2013, June 17). Cells play 'tag' to determine direction of movement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617092449.htm
Universidad de Barcelona. "Cells play 'tag' to determine direction of movement." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130617092449.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

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