DEC 25, 2021 9:02 AM PST

Cell-to-Cell Communication is a Crucial Aspect of Determining Fate

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our body starts with one cell that must divide into new cells, which also divide, and eventually, all the cells produced from that first one have to know what they are, where they should go, and how they should function, in order to form an organism with a variety of cell and tissue types. This process is still not well understood for many types of cells. We do know that stem cells are able to use cues to express certain genes so that they can specialize. Stem cells in the bone marrow, for example, can take different paths, and may become one of several cell types include red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.

In this schematic, cells (black spheres) within each well are committed to a specific fate, but external stimuli, such as cell-to-cell communication, can force cells out of one state and into another. / Credit: Adam MacLean

Researchers have now learned more about how signals sent from one cell to another can influence their fate. For example, the genes GATA1 and SPI1 are known to inhibit each another. GATA1 is expressed in megakaryocyte-erythroid cells, while SPI1 is expressed in granulocyte-monocytes. But gene expression is not enough to explain cell fate decisions. This study indicated that external signals play a role as well, and created a new model incorporating both gene networks and cell-to-cell communication. The findings have been reported in Development.

The work showed that communications between cells have a significant impact on blood cell formation, and that the distance between cells has an influence on the process; cells that are closer together have a bigger impact on one another's specialization. A gene expressed in a cell that has chosen a certain fate will repress another gene expressed in a different cell.

While there has been speculation about the factors that push a cell own one path, and questions about the impact of the internal workings of the cell on the choice, this research has suggested that cell-to-cell communication can be a determining factor.

Leukemia can arise when the growth of white blood cells gets out of control, so understanding how cells are sent down their path could open up new treatment or prevention options for some types of cancer. It may also help improve the process of bone marrow transplants, which may be used to treat leukemia patients whose bone marrow has to be eliminated with radiation and chemotherapy.

A better understanding of how stem cell fate decisions are made in the body "could provide new insight to improve clinical outcomes for these diseases," said study author Adam MacLean, assistant professor of quantitative and computational biology at the University of Southern California.

This work may also provide insights about other types of cells, and whether cell-to-cell communication is crucial to many of their fates. New methods are in development at the MacLean lab in an effort to reveal more about the expression of key genes that are involved in cell fate decisions. Additional work and experiments will help create better models of gene regulation networks to study the system as well.

Sources: University of Southern California, Development

About the Author
BS
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
MAR 11, 2022
Immunology
Understanding the 'Security Guards' of Our Tissues - γδ T Cells
MAR 11, 2022
Understanding the 'Security Guards' of Our Tissues - γδ T Cells
T cells are on the front lines of the immune system, and many reside in the blood and lymph nodes, surveying for and res ...
APR 11, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
A New Way to Inhibit a Master Regulator
APR 11, 2022
A New Way to Inhibit a Master Regulator
Transcription factors are genes that, once expressed, can influence the activity of other genes, sometimes many other ge ...
APR 14, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
COVID-19 Drug Combo More Effective than Single Drugs
APR 14, 2022
COVID-19 Drug Combo More Effective than Single Drugs
COVID-19 is more effectively treated by a combination of drugs than singular drugs alone. The corresponding study was pu ...
APR 17, 2022
Immunology
Finding the Cause of Severe Asthma
APR 17, 2022
Finding the Cause of Severe Asthma
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which the airways narrow, which impairs breathing and causes coughing or ti ...
APR 22, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Missing Link Between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is Found
APR 22, 2022
A Missing Link Between Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes is Found
Prokaryotic cells, which include all bacteria and archaea, are ancient, and relatively simple compared to eukaryotic cel ...
MAY 04, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
A New Sleep Molecule Has Been Discovered
MAY 04, 2022
A New Sleep Molecule Has Been Discovered
Scientists have long known that a molecule called hypocretin regulates sleep. It can also influence two sleep disorders: ...
Loading Comments...