Muscle-Bound Cells

October 15, 1997

For most of us, building up muscle comes from long hours at the gym. A recent study by Dr. Talila Volk of the Weizmann Institute's Molecular Genetics Department has shown that, on the cellular level, becoming muscle-bound is all a matter of who you bump into.

Dr. Volk is studying how embryonic cells undergo differentiation, the intriguing process in which the cells, which start out identical, specialize and eventually settle into their ultimate role in various organs and tissues. She and her team discovered that in Drosophila fruit fly embryos, muscle and tendon cells must literally bump into each other to complete the differentiation process.

Once physical contact is made, the two cell types coax each other along, establishing a molecular "dialogue" which controls their further development. First, a tendon cell, which has nearly finished differentiating, tells the muscle cell where it should connect itself. Then, it's the muscle's turn to "give orders": once the muscle cell is connected, it delivers the molecular signal that tells the tendon cell to complete its own differentiation. The result is a distinct role for each: one differentiates to become a mature tendon cell, while the other "grows up" to be part of the muscle.

Volk and graduate student Talia Yarnitzky, who report their latest findings in the October 15 issue of Genes and Development, isolated and cloned a gene that makes a hormone-like growth factor which is produced in the muscle cell and induces the tendon cell to differentiate. Volk and her team also identified the key molecules in the cascade, or chain reaction, that is set off by this growth factor to convey signals between the neighboring cells.

Interestingly, a growth factor from the same family is involved in cell differentiation in mammals. Thus, although Dr. Volk used fruit flies in her research, she believes that this study may help clarify how musculature forms in human embryos. Moreover, once muscle development is fully understood, this new information may even help doctors identify and treat embryonic problems, such as congenital defects in the body's most important muscle, the heart.




ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (for a box below) Dr. Volk holds the Soretta and Henry Shapira Career Development Chair. Her team included Li Min, Shirly Becker and Dan Strumpf. This research was supported by the Israel Cancer Research Fund, the German-Israeli Foundation and the Minerva Foundation, Munich, Germany.



American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

Related Fruit Flies Articles from Brightsurf:

Sestrin makes fruit flies live longer
Researchers identify positive effector behind reduced food intake.

Circular RNA makes fruit flies live longer
The molecule influences the insulin signalling pathway and thus prolongs life

Fruit flies respond to rapid changes in the visual environment
Researchers have discovered a mechanism employed by the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that broadens our understanding of visual perception.

How fruit flies flock together in orderly clusters
Opposing desires to congregate and maintain some personal space drive fruit flies to form orderly clusters, according to a study published today in eLife.

Fruit flies help in the development of personalized medicine
It is common knowledge that there is a connection between our genes and the risk of developing certain diseases.

Fruit flies' microbiomes shape their evolution
In just five generations, an altered microbiome can lead to genome-wide evolution in fruit flies, according to new research led researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why fruit flies eat practically anything
Kyoto University researchers uncover why some organisms can eat anything -- 'generalists -- and others have strict diets -- 'specialists'.

Why so fly: MU scientists discover some fruit flies learn better than others
Fruit flies could one day provide new avenues to discover additional genes that contribute to a person's ability to learn and remember.

Fruit flies find their way by setting navigational goals
Navigating fruit flies do not have the luxury of GPS, but they do have a kind of neural compass.

Tolerance to stress is a 'trade-off' as fruit flies age
With the help of the common fruit fly (D. melanogaster), which ages quickly because it only lives about 60 days, FAU neuroscientists provide insights into healthy aging by investigating the effects of a foraging gene on age and stress tolerance.

Read More: Fruit Flies News and Fruit Flies Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.