Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

From rectal cells to neurons: Keys to understanding transdifferentiation

Date:
August 18, 2014
Source:
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Summary:
How can a specialized cell change its identity? A research team investigated a 100% effective natural example of this phenomenon, which is called transdifferentiation. This process, by which some cells lose their characteristics and acquire a new identity, could be more generally involved in tissue or organ regeneration in vertebrates, and is a promising research avenue for regenerative medicine. This study identifies the role of epigenetic factors involved in this conversion, underlines the dynamic nature of the process, and shows the key mechanisms for effective transdifferentiation.

We can compare this process to the layers of an onion. Transcription factors are at the heart of process efficiency, while epigenetic factors form the outer layers that protect the mechanism from attacks and environmental change.
Credit: © Copyright: Elodie Legrand and Sophie Jarriault

How can a specialized cell change its identity? A team from the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (CNRS/INSERM/Université de Strasbourg) investigated a 100% effective natural example of this phenomenon, which is called transdifferentiation. This process, by which some cells lose their characteristics and acquire a new identity, could be more generally involved in tissue or organ regeneration in vertebrates, and is a promising research avenue for regenerative medicine. This study identifies the role of epigenetic factors involved in this conversion, underlines the dynamic nature of the process, and shows the key mechanisms for effective transdifferentiation. This work, conducted in collaboration with the Institut Curie, was published on August 15, 2014 in Science.

Our body is constituted of cells that acquired characteristics during development and that fulfill a precise function in each organ: we call these differentiated cells. Generally cells maintain their specificity until they die, but it has been proven that some cells can change state and acquire new functions. This is rare but is found in many species and is called "transdifferentiation."

The team studied this process in C. elegans, a small transparent nematode, where a rectal cell transforms naturally into a motor neuron. This change from one cell type into another occurs without cell division, by a succession of well defined steps that always lead to the same result. The researchers investigated the factors that make the conversion process so stable.

The team had elucidated the role of several transcription factors in this transdifferentiation. But these new results have shown the role of so-called "epigenetic" factors that can modulate gene expression. Two protein complexes are involved in the mechanism. These enzymes act on a histone and when a mutation changes their action, the transdifferentiation stops and the rectal cell no longer transforms into a neuron.

The researchers observed that the two complexes act at different steps and that their role may change as a function of the transcription factors with which they are associated. These results underline the importance of the correct chain of steps for each of these molecules: the dynamic nature of the transdifferentiation mechanism is essential to its stability.

The respective role of genetic and epigenetic factors in biological processes is a hotly debated subject. This work shows how each of these factors acts in transdifferentiation: transcription factors handle initiation and progress whereas epigenetic factors guarantee the constant result. The study even goes further, showing that under "normal" conditions, the epigenetic factors are incidental (even when they are absent the conversion occurs relatively efficiently) but that they are indispensable when there are environmental stressors. So they have a crucial role in maximizing the mechanism's efficacy and ensuring that it remains stable in the face of external variations.

Transdifferentiation is a phenomenon that is poorly understood. It may be involved in the organ regeneration that we observe in some organisms, for example newts, which can reconstruct their eye lens after injury. These results bring key new information to help us understand how to control this process and may open the path to promising therapies, in particular in the field of regenerative medicine.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Zuryn, A. Ahier, M. Portoso, E. R. White, M.-C. Morin, R. Margueron, S. Jarriault. Sequential histone-modifying activities determine the robustness of transdifferentiation. Science, 2014; 345 (6198): 826 DOI: 10.1126/science.1255885

Cite This Page:

CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "From rectal cells to neurons: Keys to understanding transdifferentiation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818094842.htm>.
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). (2014, August 18). From rectal cells to neurons: Keys to understanding transdifferentiation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818094842.htm
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "From rectal cells to neurons: Keys to understanding transdifferentiation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818094842.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins