The same message can be interpreted differently by different individuals; the same is true between cells. This was demonstrated by researchers at Linköping University who studied cell communication through Wnt signaling, which plays a major role in embryo development and cancer. Their findings were published in Cell Systems.
The cells of our body are in constant communication. Although cell communication plays a major role in everything that happens in our bodies, cells have several ways of communicating with each other. Wnt signaling is one of them. It was discovered in the 1980s, through its role in the development of certain types of cancer.
It was soon revealed that Wnt signaling also has a fundamental function in embryonic development in a variety of organisms, from fruit flies to humans.
“At the beginning of life, Wnt signaling is important for the body to form properly, while dysregulated communication between cells can lead to cancer. A key question we are trying to answer is whether this way of communication works in a similar way in these two different phases,” said Pierfrancesco Pagella, postdoc at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at Linköping University.
It has long been known that when a cell sends a Wnt message to another cell, the receiving cell undergoes behavioral changes. This is achieved by activating some genes in the genome and inhibiting others.
Wnt signaling has long been considered the constant activation of similar groups of genes, leading to the term “Wnt target genes.” But the current study raises this hypothesis, because the research group, led by Claudio Cantù, shows that a signal can have different effects depending on its duration. In their experiments, the researchers found that the same signal given to a specific cell type, such as embryonic stem cells, has different effects depending on the duration of the signal.
“The cell responds differently depending on whether the signal is given for 90 minutes, four hours or three days. It’s not just a matter of prolonging the same message,” said Pierfrancesco Pagella.
A long-standing important issue in developmental biology is: since all cells have the same genome, how does a cell know which of all the instructions in the genome to use to obtain its correct identity?
“I believe that this discovery has discovered a new type of cell behavior related to the ‘instruction manual’ of the genome. Some cells actually read and use the information to change their identity, while others choose not to use it for that purpose. Our study reveals how it works in the context of the Wnt signaling communication mechanism.
What the researchers also discovered is that it has to do not only with the message, but also with the identity of the receiving cell. When the exact same signal is given to two different types of cells, their responses are also immediately different. Researchers liken it to interpersonal communication, where the same message can be interpreted differently by different individuals.
Researchers believe that the cause of this phenomenon is the first experiences of the cells. One of the cell types subjected to Wnt signaling is immature embryonic stem cells. These are the youngest cells, and can develop into all the different specialized cell types of an organism. When the stem cells in the researchers’ experiment received Wnt signaling, their identity changed to resemble a special type of cell, a characteristic the researchers called “plasticity.”
The research team also studied how specialized cell types react to the same signaling. Despite receiving the same signal, these cells temporarily changed, and eventually returned to their initial state, an unexpected behavior that the Linköping University team called “elastic.”
A hypothesis raised by researchers is that this second type of behavior, “elastic,” may contribute to the aggressive behavior of cancer cells. New insights into this phenomenon can be used to develop new therapeutic approaches to affect the cancer cell response to Wnt signaling. This knowledge can also lay the foundation for discoveries about which genes are signaled in different situations.
Claudio Cantù, The Time-Resolved Genomic Impact of Wnt-catenin Signaling, Cell Systems (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cels.2023.06.004. www.cell.com/cell-systems/full … 2405-4712(23)00157-6
Provided by Linköping University
Citation: Cell communication: Wnt signaling is interpreted differently depending on cell reception and signal duration (2023, July 19) retrieved 22 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-cell-communication-wnt-differently-duration.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.