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Every living organism expresses fine cellular protrusions known as cilia. Flagellates need them to move, roundworms to find food, and sperm to move towards the egg. Cilia form fine protective hairs in the lungs and play a crucial role in the differentiation of organs in embryos. A research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now reconstructed the protein complex responsible for transport within cilia, which plays a decisive role in their functioning.
These excrescences of eukaryotic cells even ensure that the human heart ends up in the right place—cilia control the organ development of the growing fetus. "This multifunctionality is absolutely fascinating," says Dr. Zeynep Ökten, biophysicist in the Physics Department of the Technical University of Munich.
Years - Significance - Cilia - Transduction - Date
Only in recent years has the significance of cilia for signal transduction has been recognized. "To date, we know very little about which biochemical processes control the various functions. This makes understanding the basic mechanisms even more important," says the scientist.
The scientist holds a glass plate with thin, liquid-filled capillaries up to the light. There is not much to see—just a transparent liquid. Only under a fluorescence microscope does the movement of dye-marked compounds become visible as green dots, all striving in one direction. As if on a highway, the transport proteins migrate along the thin channels of the cilia. But just how these engines are started has remained a mystery...
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