Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

All Tethered Up
05 May 2012

All Tethered Up

Each cell in our body is encompassed by a lipid-filled sandwich sac or membrane. These bilayered fatty sacs take on a variety of different forms when our cells move or change shape. Finger-like projections from their surface (tethers) help transport nutrients and ‘talk’ to neighbouring cells. Tethers can take up any slack when new lipids are made or if the cell shrinks. Despite their importance, little is known about their molecular structure. So researchers are generating computer models of lab-made lipid bilayers to simulate tether formation. Applying forces from different angles, they can watch the membrane as it stretches and deforms into a tether (pictured). Looking deeper into the bilayer, scientists can see for the first time how the fat molecules change positions when the tethers adopt new shapes.

Written by Manisha Lalloo

Published in Biophysical Journal, 102 (8), pp 1866–1871

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