Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Diamonds and Crosses
11 August 2017

Diamonds and Crosses

Our cells link to their neighbours via proteins called cadherins. Cadherins also attach to flexible scaffolding within cells, which enables cells to contort themselves into different shapes. Researchers investigate how N-cadherins affect cell shape in fruit fly eyes, in order to get a better handle of how our own cells form the diversely shaped tissues of the human body. Imaging normal fly eyes revealed diamond-shaped clusters of four cells (pictured), linked together by N-cadherins (red) and E-cadherins (green). When N-cadherin binds N-cadherin cells are more able to contract, while binding to E-cadherin makes cells less able to contract. Genetically impairing the ability of N-cadherin to work this way in half of the cells of the cluster caused the mutant cells to become misshapen, transforming the diamond-shaped clusters into crosses. Such changes illustrate how vital N-cadherins are in crafting the tissues that make up organisms from simple flies to complex humans.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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