When it comes to survival against the evils either in our society or inside our body- communication plays an important role in all facets of life. Inter-cellular communication allows millions of cells to connect well and work together in coordination to perform important bodily processes for survival. However, very little is known about how local environment of stem cells changes, and communicates, upon a situation like the infection.
A Research team led by Dr. Guy Tanentzapf at University of British Columbia, Canada- has identified how cells talk to each other through their membrane junctions to fight against bacterial infections.
Dr. Guy Tanentzapf’s lab is working on to understand how cells interact with each other and respond to their environment. In particular, what are the roles of cell junctions at the cellular membrane that allow them to interact with each other and communicate with their environment?
The results of this study were published in the journal eLife.
In this study, Drosophila (Flies) has been used as the model organism. Flies are an excellent model organism for research due to the ease with which genetic manipulation can be achieved. The researchers said most of the molecules are highly conserved in flies; hence studies on flies can be applied to the mammalian system.
In animals, stem cells are essential for development, maintenance, and regeneration of tissues. Stem cells live with other non-stem cells in a particular microenvironment, known as stem cell niche. The cells in the stem cell niche play an instructive role for the stem cells to make highly specialized cells or to renew their population.
“In this study, we define a novel role for occluding junctions in the blood stem cell niche in Drosophila. We show that the occluding junctions form a permeability barrier that regulates the flow and transport of molecules across cells. The permeability barrier maintains a distinct micro-environment at the stem cell niche which helps in making the decision between stem cell renewal and differentiation,” said Dr. Rohan J. Khadilkar, Post-Doctoral researcher and first author of this paper.
According to this study, when the bacterial infection occurs, this permeability barrier gets disrupted due to a down-regulation of occluding junctions at the stem cell niche. This down-regulation triggers the rapid formation of different types of blood cells that primarily act as immune cells. These blood cells mount the cellular immune response in flies.
“Our study for the first time shows how the stem cell niche environment changes as a response to infection by bacteria and how does the host organism use this to fight against the attack of the pathogen. Since this mechanism helps in boosting the immune response of the host, it holds a lot of promise even in the case of humans,” said Dr. Khadilkar.
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