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Nerve Cells On The Go

the membrane, passing information all the way to actin like water flowing smoothly down a tube. On the contrary, there seems to be plenty of turbulence, with members of the pathway frequently opposing their binding partners, as if they were haggling over the final outcome every step of the way. Take these examples: Ena suppresses Abl, Abl fights Dlar, Ena and Dlar work together, but Ena seems to inhibit profilin, and profilin curbs the polymerization of actin.

"Even so, a coherent picture is finally beginning to drop out of all this madness," Van Vactor says. Indeed, these kinds of checks and balances, combined with input from multiple tributaries to this flow that have yet to be established, may represent the molecular basis of a 'thinking' signal transduction system that integrates multifaceted, and sometimes conflicting, information to come up with the appropriate biological response.

Many questions remain unanswered, Van Vactor says, but it seems clear that these interlocking relationships are well suited to make the cytoskeleton as dynamic as it is. The adding and removing of small phosphate groups to signal transduction proteins in the growth cone probably serves as a fast and reversible mechanism enabling the growth cone to weigh attractive versus repellent cues as it travels the ever-changing landscape of the developing embryo.


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Contact: Peta Gillyatt
gillyatt@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0443
Harvard Medical School
26-Feb-1999


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