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Previously unknown human cell structure identified.

In cytology or cell biology, cell adhesion is a process by which cells attach to neighbors through specialized structures on their surface. Cell adhesion can occur either through direct contact between cell surfaces or indirect interaction, where cells attach to the extracellular matrix, a gel-like structure containing molecules released by cells into spaces between them.  To date, it was assumed all types of cell adhesion had been identified.  Now, a study from researchers led by the Karolinska Institutet discovers a previously unknown structure in human cells. The team states the structure is a new type of protein complex the cell uses to attach to its surroundings, playing a key role in cell division. The study is published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Previous studies show the cells are surrounded by a net-like structure called the extracellular matrix. To attach themselves to the matrix, cells have receptor molecules on their surface controlling the assembly of large protein complexes inside them.  These so-called adhesion complexes connect the cell exterior to the cell interior and also signal to the cell about its immediate environment, affecting its properties and behavior.  The current study identifies a new type of adhesion complex with a unique molecular composition setting it apart from those already commonly known.

The current study utilizes confocal microscopy, and mass spectrometry on human cell lines to identify a previously unknown cell structure they named ‘reticular adhesions’.  Results show the reticular adhesions are a class of adhesion complexes capable of attaching to the neighboring cell that does not dissolve during cell division unlike other types of cell adhesion complexes.  Data findings show the newly discovered structures control the ability of daughter cells to occupy the right place after cell division.

The lab states the newly discovered adhesion complex can provide answers as to how the cell can remain attached to the matrix during cell division without dissolving to enable division. They go on to add the previously recorded adhesion complexes dissolve during the process to allow the cell to divide, whereas this new cell structure does not.

The team surmises they have identified a previously unknown cell structure, a distinct class of cell-matrix adhesion mediating attachment during cell division.  For the future, the researchers state further research is now needed to examine the new adhesion complex in living organisms.

Source: Karolinska Institute

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