Q&A: Quantitative approaches to planar polarity and tissue organization

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Journal of Biology 12/2009; 8(12):103. DOI: 10.1186/jbiol191
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Cells are highly complex and orderly machines, with defined shapes and a startling variety of internal organizations. Complex geometry is a feature of both free-living unicellular organisms and cells inside multicellular animals. Where does the geometry of a cell come from? Many of the same questions that arise in developmental biology can also be asked of cells, but in most cases we do not know the answers. How much of cellular organization is dictated by global cell polarity cues as opposed to local interactions between cellular components? Does cellular structure persist across cell generations? What is the relationship between cell geometry and tissue organization? What ensures that intracellular structures are scaled to the overall size of the cell? Cell biology is only now beginning to come to grips with these questions.
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Appropriate establishment and maintenance of cell polarity is essential for normal development and homeostasis. The vast majority of human cancers originate from epithelial tissues and tumour cell invasion and metastasis are the major cause of mortality in human cancers. Invading cells demonstrate loss of cell polarity, loss of epithelial cell-cell adhesions and tissue disorganisation. We examine the growing evidence linking loss of apicobasal polarity with tumour progression.
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    ABSTRACT: Epithelial tissues are structured and highly organized monolayers of cells with many different tissue-specific functions. Ordering of epithelium cells in living tissues relies on spatially and temporally regulated cell behavior and is of vital importance for their functioning. The underlying mechanisms that govern the development of the tissue architecture and morphogenesis rely on planar cell polarity signaling pathways. Mutations and other disruptions of these pathways were found to cause developmental defects, leading to failures in lung branching or kidney development, for example, and are also involved in cancer cell migration. Here, we investigate how these defects affect the spatial arrangement and orientation of epithelium cells, giving special attention to tissue reorganization during development. For the characterization of the resulting polarized cytoarchitectures, we make use of methods developed in the field of liquid crystal (LC) research. In fact, epithelial tissues possess typical features of liquid crystalline systems albeit exhibiting a different local symmetry. Therefore, tools developed in the LC research community can be successfully applied for the description of the overall epithelial tissue topology and its orientational order. We additionally discuss and hypothesize the possibilities of using nanoparticles for structural defect stabilization and its application.
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