How to steer a moving cell

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have developed new technology which, combined with proteomics the large-scale study of the structure and function of proteins and their functions has allowed them to map an extensive network of the signaling proteins that control cell movement.

Their work, providing the first comprehensive profile of cell movement, could lead to a better understanding of cell migration in cancer metastasis and inflammatory disease. The study will be published the week of May 7-11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Extra-cellular messengers called chemokines are families of small proteins secreted by cells that regulate the cells directional movement, or chemotaxis. Cells possess an innate ability to migrate, an inner compass that somehow senses the presence of chemokines. But in metastasis, the cells inner compass goes awry allowing cells to leave the primary tumor, crawl through tissues and enter blood vessels spreading the cancer throughout the body.

Richard Klemke, Ph.D., professor of pathology at UCSD School of Medicine and the Moores Cancer Center, and his colleagues set out to better understand the complexity of signaling mechanisms within the cell that become de-regulated and allow cells which are usually static to begin migrating.

The researchers hope to fully define the protein components of the compass to gain a better understanding of what directs cell migration or, in the case of cancer cells and inflammation, cause cells to migrate where they normally wouldnt.

"The ability to spatially organize specific groups of signaling proteins to the front or back of the cell is what drives cell polarization and directional movement," said Klemke. "It is the steering wheel of the cell." Now the researchers want to determine how the large numbers of signaling molecules that make up the compass are functi

Contact: Debra Kain
University of California - San Diego

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