Striking the balance between cell death and survival in regularly renewing epithelial tissue
If a cell suffers damage or stress it can, as a way to maintain health of the tissue, trigger its own death. In searching for factors controlling such life-or-death decisions, researchers sometimes study gut epithelial cells, which are continuously shedding and replacing themselves. The image shows intestinal epithelium from flies, in which a factor called Diedel has been found to maintain attachment of epithelial cells (red membranes, blue nuclei) to the underlying basal lamina (green) preventing their detachment-induced death (a process called anoikis). Indeed, the intestinal cells of control flies (top) and of those expressing wild type Diedel (middle) appear normal, while those expressing mutated Diedel (bottom) are disorganised and detaching. Because cancer cells have a habit of becoming resistant to anoikis – enabling their spread around the body (metastases), identification of Diedel and other anoikis factors could provide insight into how to kill the cells that refuse to kill themselves.
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