The Cytoneme Connection: Challenging our Knowledge of Paracrine Signaling
Paracrine signaling is generally known to involve releasing signal molecules directly into the extracellular fluid, which reach target cells slowly through diffusion. Dr. Roy believed that cytonemes may somehow facilitate this process, allowing the molecules to better home in on their target cells. Armed with countless Drosophila and red and green fluorescent biomarkers, he conducted several experiments to see if this could be the case.
Now knowing that cytonemes of different cells did contact each other (sometimes over distances of 50 to 100 cells), Dr. Roy found a method to disable the distal molecule of the cytonemes. This did not impact the structure or number of the cytonemes, but they would no longer be able to form contact points. The resulting images were suddenly less colorful than usual, he concluded that disabling the connection of cytonemes resulted in no cell to cell communication. Through further research he was also able to determine that Drosophila cells have specific cytonemes for the transport of Fibroblast growth factors (FGF’s) and other signaling biomolecules integral to proper tissue differentiation.
You can read more about Dr. Roy's research with cytoneme communication in the following papers: Cytoneme-mediated contact-dependent transport of the Drosophila Decapentaplegic signaling protein and Communicating by touch – neurons are not alone.
Becca Wilson is a first year master's student in Bill Lamp’s lab. She is currently studying the distribution patterns of nuisance black flies in Washington County, Maryland.
Samuel Ramsey is a 3rd year PhD student in the Shrewsbury lab currently studying competition in egg parasitoids of the brown marmorated stink bug.