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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