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Neighbourly Messages

New roles discovered for growth factor called Pyramus in development

18 February 2021

Neighbourly Messages

Like you drop a note through a neighbour’s letterbox, cells send messages to nearby companions, with instructions like ‘move’ or ‘die’ (hopefully not quite what you suggest to neighbours). To better understand the fundamentals of these widespread and crucial interactions, researchers investigated how just one of these messages, or ligands, is able to relay many messages in the simple fruit fly. They found multiple components, including a tether preventing the message spreading too far from the sender, like two cups on a string, and one that controls the volume of the message, helping distinguish an urgent shout from a gentle suggestion. These subtleties enable clear communication, and the ligand in question – FGF Pyramus, red in the developing fly embryo sequence pictured, with corresponding receptors in green – is key to healthy heart development in both flies and humans. Deciphering its methods of communication could reveal clues to preventing developmental heart defects.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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