Home Cellular science The IISc team uncovers the mechanism of cellular processes

The IISc team uncovers the mechanism of cellular processes


Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and their collaborators have discovered the real-time mechanism involved in biological processes such as cell division, cell motility, transport of nutrients into cells and viral infections.

Although the seamless transition of cell membranes between distinct 3D configurations is known to be responsible for these processes, the experiment conducted by the IISc team sheds light on the actual mechanism involved in the process.

The researchers studied colloidal membranes, which are micrometer layers of aligned rod-shaped particles, because they exhibit many of the same properties as cell membranes.

Unlike a sheet of plastic, where all molecules are immobile, cell membranes are fluidic sheets in which each component is free to diffuse.

“This is a key property of cell membranes that is available in our [colloidal membrane] so,” said Prerna Sharma, associate professor in the Department of Physics, IISc, and corresponding author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Colloidal membranes were composed by preparing a rod-shaped virus solution of two different lengths: 1.2 micrometers and 0.88 micrometers.

Researchers studied how the shape of colloidal membranes changes as the fraction of short rods in solution increases.

“I made several samples by mixing different volumes of the two viruses and then observed them under a microscope,” said avoirika Khanra, a doctoral student in the Department of Physics and first author of the paper.

The researchers observed that when the saddles fused laterally, they formed a larger saddle of the same or higher order.

However, when they merged at nearly right angles away from their edges, the final configuration was a catenoid-like shape. The catenoids then fused with other saddles, giving rise to increasingly complex structures, such as trinoids and four-noids.

A key idea of ​​the study was to show that the Gaussian curvature modulus of membranes increases as the fraction of short rods increases. This explains why the addition of shorter rods drove the membranes towards saddle-like shapes, which are less energetic. This also explains another observation from their experiment where the lower order membranes were small in size, while the high order membranes were large.