Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Automation & Microfluidics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Microfluidic Chip Helps Solve Cellular Mating Puzzle

Published: Friday, April 27, 2007
Last Updated: Friday, April 27, 2007
Bookmark and Share
Johns Hopkins researchers’ experiments in ultra-small channels unlock secrets in yeast behavior that nayy lead to cancer or other illnesses.

Using a biochemical version of a computer chip, a team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has solved a long-standing mystery related to the mating habits of yeast cells.

The findings, described in the Feb. 18 Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature, shed new light on the way cells send and receive signals from one another and from the environment through a process called signal transduction. That process, when impaired, can lead to cancer or other illnesses.

"Yeast is a very simple single-celled organism, but in many respects it operates much like a human cell," said Andre Levchenko, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins and supervisor of the research team.

"That’s why it’s been studied for many years - because what we find out in yeast often holds true for humans as well. In this study, we looked at how yeast cells signal one another when they want to merge, engaging in a type of mating behavior. Human cells ‘talk’ to one another in a similar way, and it’s important to understand this process."

Yeast cells mate by sending out pheromone designed to catch the attention of nearby cells of the opposite mating type. When a prospective partner picks up this "scent," it alters its shape and sends a projection toward the source of the pheromone, leading to a cellular merger. This mating process is regulated by proteins inside the cell called mitogen-activated protein kinases, or MAPKs, through a chain of chemical reactions.

First, sensors on the surface of a yeast cell pick up signals that a mating partner is nearby. Then the message is passed down toward the cell’s control center, the nucleus. The messengers that carry it to the nucleus are MAPKs, which direct the cell’s response by triggering multiple genes. But biologists have been baffled for years as to why two different forms of MAPKs perk up when the mating call arrives. Only one of them, called Fus3, appeared to be in charge of the courtship process, while the other was thought to be moonlighting away from its main job in another signaling pathway.

"The role of the second type of MAPK was unclear," said Saurabh Paliwal, a doctoral student in Levchenko’s lab and lead author of the Nature article. "Through experiments with a microfluidic chip and with mathematical modeling, we were able to learn that this second MAPK, called Kss1, does play a crucial role. Without it, the mating process does not proceed as smoothly."

The microfluidic chip was invented and patented by a team that included Levchenko and Paliwal, who teamed up with Alex Groisman, a physicist from the University of California, San Diego.

In place of the microscopic electrical circuitry of a computer chip, their device consists of a series of tiny channels and chambers, some 20 times smaller than the diameter of human hair. Within the chip, computer-controlled fluid pressure and microscopic valves allow the researchers to isolate and conduct experiments on extremely small clusters of cells.

"The level of control we can achieve on the conditions affecting just a few cells is unbelievable," Levchenko said. "This is far beyond what you can do in a traditional biology lab dish that’s filled with a large colony of cells."

Using cameras attached to a microscope, the researchers were able to view a microfluidic chip and study the mating behavior of yeast cells in response to different concentrations of pheromone in the presence or absence of Kss1. They were surprised to find that this second MAPK, thought to be relatively unimportant, actually helped the yeast cells do a better job of finding a mate through two distinct functions.

First, it helped cells diversify their responses at low pheromone concentrations, so that only a small fraction of cells might engage in expensive mating behavior, which consumes a lot of cellular resources. Second, in the cells that were attempting to mate, Kss1 improved the precision of finding the partner.

The researchers said their findings show the importance of unraveling the role of multiple, apparently redundant proteins that are often activated by the same message passing through a cell. They also address why cells do not get confused when they are activated by multiple signaling messengers. Such findings may help produce medications with fewer side effects and others that target mutations associated with cancer.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tiny Lab Devices Could Attack Huge Problem of Drug-Resistant Infections
NIH-funded project aims for fast identification and destruction of deadly bacteria.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Up-close Look at Cancer on the Move
Microscopic view of metastasis could give insight about how to keep cancer in check.
Friday, November 07, 2014
Lab-on-a-Chip Homes in on How Cancer Cells Break Free
Johns Hopkins engineers have invented a method that could be used to help figure out how cancer cells break free from neighboring tissue, an "escape" that can spread the disease to other parts of the body.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Scientific News
The Changing Tides of the In Vitro Diagnostics Market
With the increasing focus in personalized medicine, diagnostics plays a crucial role in patient monitoring.
Capturing Cell Growth in 3-D
Spinout’s microfluidics device better models how cancer and other cells interact in the body.
Device May Detect Urinary Tract Infections Faster
A Lab-on-a-Disc platform developed by a German and Irish team of researchers dramatically cut the time to detect bacterial species that cause urinary tract infections -- a major cause of sepsis.
Automation Abound at AACC in Atlanta
Discover the latest breakthroughs, trends and products from the AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo.
Real-Time Data for Cancer Therapy
Biochemical sensor implanted at initial biopsy could allow doctors to better monitor and adjust cancer treatments.
Lab-on-a-Chip Offers Promise for TB and Asthma Patients
A device to mix liquids using ultrasonics is the first and most difficult component in a miniaturized system for low-cost analysis of sputum from patients with pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis and asthma.
Paving the way to Better Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
Aïcha BenTaieb will present her invention for automated identification of ovarian cancer’s many subtypes at an international conference this fall.
New Tech Enables Epigenomic Analysis with a Mere 100 Cells
A new technology that will dramatically enhance investigations of epigenomes, the machinery that turns on and off genes and a very prominent field of study in diseases such as stem cell differentiation, inflammation and cancer has been developed by researchers at Virginia Tech.
Futuristic Brain Probe Allows for Wireless Control of Neurons
NIH-funded scientists developed an ultra-thin, minimally invasive device for controlling brain cells with drugs and light.
Microfluidic Device Mixes And Matches DNA For Synthetic Biology
Researchers have developed a microfluidic device that quickly builds packages of DNA and delivers them into bacteria or yeast for further testing.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!