A Cell’s First Steps
A recent collaboration addressed the fundamental question in basic cell biology: How do living cells figure out when and where to grow?
Assistant Professor Dimitrios Vavylonis and graduate student Tyler Drake joined a University of Miami research team led by Associate Professor Fulvia Verde. Their study, Oscillatory Dynamics of Cdc42 GTPase In The Control of Polarized Growth, appears in the journal Science Express.
Together, they learned that by oscillating through the cellular membrane of new cells, protein Cdc42 begins a dance that changes total cell polarity.
By changing polarity, Cdc42 regulates shape, structure and function in yeast cells. This oscillating mechanism may be a general strategy among all self-organizing biological systems, not just simple yeast.
Researchers used fluorescent markers to tag each of the many proteins involved, observing the protein oscillate, switching sides about every five minutes. The fluctuations provide an adaptable mechanism for cells to control their size and structure in the fast-changing environment within.
The findings demonstrate just part of the complex process of cell growth and differentiation, but mark how advanced the science of biophysics has become. Only recently has the clear imaging and monitoring of protein activity become possible at the minute sizes and shortened time scales of individual cell maturation.
Vavylonis’s research has explored the way the cellular cytoskeleton organizes and functions for years. In collaboration with biologists and computer scientists, his team uses physics to study, analyze, and model the physical properties of these adaptive biological materials.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and by individual university groups including a Lehigh Class of 1968 Junior Faculty Fellowship and a Sigma Xi grant to Drake.
Original article: http://www4.lehigh.edu/news/newsarticle.aspx?Channel=