Optical Tweezers Uncover Key to Cell Communication
Using laser "optical tweezers," research learns how the Notch pathway is pulled apart, signalling cell types to form correctly, on-time, and at every location each is needed in the body
“The Notch network is used repeatedly during the development of almost every cell type and must be tightly controlled, as inappropriate communication causes developmental defects and cancer. Successful design and generation of Notch therapeutics demands a solid understanding of the basic mechanics of the Notch network,” Gerry Weinmaster, professor of biological chemistry and researcher at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Optical tweezers act as tiny tractor beams that can hold and manipulate microscopic beads coated with specific molecules. When cells bind to and pull on the beads, researchers can measure cell-generated forces that are billions of times smaller than the weight of one teaspoon of sugar,” Elliot Botvinick, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and surgery with the Beckman Laser Institute and The Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology at UCI.
Using new technology, the UCI-UCLA team found that communication via the Notch network involves a sort of tug-of-war between neighboring cells in which Notch molecules are unraveled by force to reveal hidden elements important for cell-to-cell communication.
Together with biochemical and biological cell analyses, their findings provide compelling evidence that pulling on Notch opens a network to deliver instructions for specific cell responses.
The research sheds new light on the role of cells’ neighbors in the development and regulation of tissue - and advances efforts to create new therapeutics.
The collaboration between UCI’s, and UCLA’s Gerry Weinmaster, has produced two complementary studies in which they each used optical tweezers to detect and measure the mechanical force produced by cells bound to Notch.
Both papers appear online in the journal Developmental Cell
Bhupinder Shergill of UCI and Laurence Meloty-Kapella, Abdiwahab Musse and Jane Kuon of UCLA contributed to the studies.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (grant number R01 GM085032), the National Center for Research Resources (P41 RR001192) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering (P41 EB015890) all of the National Institutes of Health supported this work, as did the University of California Cancer Research Coordinating Committee, the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation and the National Science Foundation (DMR 0805164).
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
Original article: http://today.uci.edu/news/2012/06/nr_notch_120601.php