JUL 19, 2020 8:54 AM PDT

Neurons and Blood Vessels 'Talk' About Cell Fate

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists have used a zebrafish model to show that the neurons of the peripheral nervous system (outside of the brain and spinal cord) communicate with blood vessels. Capturing video of the process in action, researchers showed that the blood vessels and nerve cells grow protrusions that can signal to one another. The findings have been published in Cell Reports.

In this study, the videos showed that the filaments emanating from the cells are called signaling filopodia, or cytonemes, and at their tip is a receptor or molecule that acts as a ligand (to a receptor), so these filopodia can 'talk' to one another in a very precise way.

"It was known that vessel cells and stem cells in the brain communicate but this is the first time it has been witnessed through cytonemes in the peripheral nervous system," noted study leader Berta Alsina, the principal investigator of the Morphogenesis and Cell Signaling in Sensory Systems group at Pompeu Fabra University. "By using high-resolution spatiotemporal visualization techniques in vivo we have seen them in real-time and they might also be in the brain."

These signals keep some neuronal precursors in a quiescent state; they're hanging out, waiting until they're needed, at which time they would specialize into neurons that would replace those that become damaged.

"If all neuronal precursors proliferated and differentiated we would not have this reservoir and there would not be the opportunity for regeneration. In the auditory and vestibular system, which is what we are studying, cases of deafness or vertigo may arise," explained the first author of the study Laura Taberner.

These precursors are in a low oxygen or hypoxic environment, which stops them from proliferating. As blood vessels come into contact during development, oxygen begins to reach these tissues, normalizing oxygen levels. Oxygen was found to be the second signal and it can control whether neuronal precursors differentiate into neurons.

Filopodia of the blood vessels (magenta) touch sensory neurons (green), which also emit filopodia towards blood vessels./ Credit: Laura Taberner, Pompeu Fabra University

This research suggests that as the peripheral nervous system is developing and new neurons are forming from stem cells, the maintenance of that pool of stem cells depends significantly on the signals coming from blood vessels. Neurons can take in signals from many cells that reside in their environment, and blood vessels are one of them.

"This new knowledge will help understand the connection between hearing loss and cardiovascular diseases, as well as improve protocols for in vitro differentiation of neurons for regenerative therapies," said Taberner.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Barcelona, Cell Reports

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
FEB 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Venus Flytraps Generate Magnetic Fields
FEB 09, 2021
Venus Flytraps Generate Magnetic Fields
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) might be the most famous carnivorous plant; it can entice prey to land on its leaf ...
FEB 16, 2021
Microbiology
A Virus That Can Target and Eliminate Specific Bacteria
FEB 16, 2021
A Virus That Can Target and Eliminate Specific Bacteria
Viruses that infect bacteria are called phages, and scientists have been interested in whether they can be used to targe ...
MAR 08, 2021
Microbiology
Researchers Discover a New Symbiosis
MAR 08, 2021
Researchers Discover a New Symbiosis
A new type of endosymbiosis has been discovered; the organisms are shown in this image by S. Ahmerkamp, Max Planck Insti ...
MAR 17, 2021
Microbiology
Novel Bacteria Discovered on Space Station
MAR 17, 2021
Novel Bacteria Discovered on Space Station
Scientists have known that wherever humans go, we carry microorganisms with us, and the International Space Station is n ...
MAR 19, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
These Cells Can Cry Tears
MAR 19, 2021
These Cells Can Cry Tears
Reporting in Cell Stem Cell, scientists have engineered miniature versions of human tear glands that actually emit tears ...
APR 15, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Protein That Creates a Fibonacci Sequence in Flower Heads
APR 15, 2021
A Protein That Creates a Fibonacci Sequence in Flower Heads
You're probably familiar with sunflowers, a member of the Asteraceae family. But the biology of the plant is a bit diffe ...
Loading Comments...