Cell Biology

Decisions, Decisions

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Science  10 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5899, pp. 167
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5899.167c

Precursor cells begin life faced with some important decisions: when and where to divide, and what sort of cell to become. These decisions can be influenced chemically by growth factors that induce signal transduction pathways within the cell and regulate the transcription of specific genes. Oligodendrocytes make myelin that insulates axons; they arise from precursor cells that migrate and proliferate along the axons before differentiating into mature myelin-forming cells. Rosenberg et al. show that the physical environment of the oligodendrocyte precursor cell acts as a differentiation factor and influences these cell fate decisions. Differentiation was dependent on the packing density of the precursor cells, suggesting that lateral compression of the cells can act as a mechanical signal that activates gene expression programs. — HP*

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 14662 (2008).

  • * Helen Pickersgill and Chris Surridge are locum editors in Science's editorial department.

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