Weizmann Institute scientists propose a model regulating cell adhesion -- central to embryonic development, cellular movement, and communication
REHOVOT, Israel -- February 28, 2000 -- "Hard times," or more specifically, exposure to rigid environments, enhances the tendency of cells to form tight adhesions and communicate, according to a recent Weizmann Institute study published in the March issue of Nature Cell Biology. The findings reveal a new parameter regulating cell attachment, namely, the physical properties of the immediate surroundings.
Cell adhesion, whereby cells bind to adjacent cells and to the extracellular matrix between them, is critical to the formation of tissues and organs, as well as to cellular movement and the exchange of information between cells, known as signaling. Impaired adhesion can lead to the onset of disease, such as cancer. If detached from a surrounding matrix, cells usually die within a short time, a process called anoikis, Greek for homelessness.
Migrating while sensing the environment until finding their specific location, cells become anchored, proliferate, and develop. Yet, what are the dynamics of this mechanism? Which cues exist within a living organism influencing adhesion properties, and instructing a cell to change its location, connect, or disconnect? This is what the Weizmann team, headed by Prof. Benjamin Geiger of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, set out to understand.
The research group included doctoral student Eli Zamir and Professors Zvi Kam and Alexander Bershadsky of the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, together with Kenneth Yamada of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Ben-Zion Katz of the Tel Aviv Medical Center.
Previous studies by this group had revealed that cell adhesion sites show extraordinary structural and molecular diversity. They discovered the existence of two major types of adhesion: "focal contacts," located mainly at the cell per
Contact: Jeffrey J. Sussman
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science