Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Singapore researchers discover molecular communication network in human stem cells

A team of researchers from Singapore and Germany have discovered a molecular network in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that integrates cell communication signals to keep the cell in its stem cell state.

Many factors are required for stem cells to keep their special state, among others is the use of cell communication pathways.

Cell communication is of key importance in multicellular organisms, such as the coordinated development of tissues in the embryo so that cells receive signals and respond accordingly.

If there are errors in the signals, the cell will respond differently, possibly leading to diseases such as cancer.

The communication signals which are used in hESCs activate a chain of reactions (called the extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) pathway) within each cell, causing the cell to respond by activating genetic information.

The authors propose a model that integrates this bi-directional control to keep the cell in the stem cell state.

These findings are particularly relevant for stem cell research, but they might also help research in other related fields.

 "The ERK signalling pathway has been known for many years, but this is the first time we are able to see the full spectrum of the response in the genome of stem cells. We have found many biological processes that are associated with this signaling pathway, but we also found new and unexpected patterns such as this dual mode of ELK1. It will be interesting to see how this communication network changes in other cells, tissues, or in disease, he said." said first author Dr Jonathan Goke from Stem Cell and Developmental Biology at the GIS said:

"A remarkable feature of this study is, how the information was extracted by computational means from the experimental data," said proffessor Martin Vingron from MPIMG and co-author of this study.

Göke J, Chan YS, Yan J, Vingron M, & Ng HH (2013). Genome-wide Kinase-Chromatin Interactions Reveal the Regulatory Network of ERK Signaling in Human Embryonic Stem Cells. Molecular cell, 50 (6), 844-855 PMID: 23727019 

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