How Do Cells Talk?

April 5, 2013

LCGC Europe eNews

LCGC Europe eNews-04-05-2013, Volume 0, Issue 0

High performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC?MS) was used to investigate cell-to-cell communication.

High performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC–MS) was used to investigate cell-to-cell communication. The results, published in PLOS ONE, outline how proteins in the cell membrane of a specific cell line are modified to change their function. 1

The study analysed the proteome of E14.Tg2a, focusing specifically on glycoproteins. The cell line is an important tool in the study of the physiology and pathology of human Lesch-Nyhan disease, a neurological disease characterized by mental retardation and self‑mutilation.

Glycoproteins are added to other proteins to change function, and so play an important role in cell‑to‑cell communication, as well as facilitating interactions with pathogens, such as viruses. The analysis found that most of the glycoproteins were cell surface proteins, which are thought to be difficult to study because of their complex structure and poor solubility, according to lead author Bingyun Sun.

As well as providing detailed molecular information about the E14.Tg2a stem cell line, the scientists also discovered a novel relationship between the levels of glycosylation and the function of proteins within the cell. Advances in understanding how membrane proteins are adapted by glycosylation could improve drug design and development.

According to Sun, the findings will help further our understanding of glycoprotein function, which are implicated in a number of roles from signalling, sensing environmental cues, cell-to-cell communication, development and defence. Sun told The Column: “This finding has also been conserved in evolution, when we further examined other four evolutionary distinct species, such as fly, worm, fish and human, which indicates the importance of it to biological systems.”

Reference
1. B. Sun et al, PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055722 (2013).