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Cellular Information Processing
Cells need to constantly respond to changes in their environments and to signals they receive from other cells. How environmental signals are detected by cells and how specific responses are elicited provide a rich repertoire of biochemical research questions.
- Growth factors such as Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) bind to cell surface receptors which induce signaling within the cell. Describe the stepwise process of this signal transduction pathway. What role might the extracellular matrix play in regulating signaling specificity and intensity.
- Extracellular signals received by transmembrane receptors might directly induce remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. Which receptor family is crucial in mediating this process? How could you experimentally detect actin cytoskeleton remodeling?
- Cell migration is initiated by polarization of cells. Signaling molecules involved in this process are often localized to specific parts within the cell. Explain the steps of single cell migration and describe the involvement of the PI3K-pathway in this process.
- One of the earliest successes in cancer therapy was the identification of Gleevec, a small molecule inhibitor targeting BCR-Abl, a hyper-active kinase derived from a genetic translocation in leukemia patients. Explain the mechanism of action of Bcr-Abl and the effect Gleevec might have on this kinase. Present a critical view on why targeting kinases in general might be difficult for therapeutic approach.