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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the extracellular matrix
  • List examples of the ways that plant cells and animal cells communicate with adjacent cells
  • Summarize the roles of tight junctions, desmosomes, gap junctions, and plasmodesmata

You already know that a group of similar cells working together is called a tissue. As you might expect, if cells are to work together, they must communicate with each other, just as you need to communicate with others if you work on a group project. Let’s take a look at how cells communicate with each other.

Extracellular matrix of animal cells

Most animal cells release materials into the extracellular space. The primary components of these materials are proteins, and the most abundant protein is collagen. Collagen fibers are interwoven with carbohydrate-containing protein molecules called proteoglycans. Collectively, these materials are called the extracellular matrix    ( [link] ). Not only does the extracellular matrix hold the cells together to form a tissue, but it also allows the cells within the tissue to communicate with each other. How can this happen?

This illustration shows the plasma membrane. Embedded in the plasma membrane are integral membrane proteins called integrins. On the exterior of the cell is a vast network of collagen fibers. The fibers are attached to the integrins via a protein called fibronectin. Proteoglycan complexes also extend from the plasma membrane to the extracellular matrix. A close-up view shows that each proteoglycan complex is composed of a polysaccharide core. Proteins branch from this core, and carbohydrates branch from the proteins. The inside of the cytoplasmic membrane is lined with microfilaments of the cytoskeleton.
The extracellular matrix consists of a network of proteins and carbohydrates.

Cells have protein receptors on the extracellular surfaces of their plasma membranes. When a molecule within the matrix binds to the receptor, it changes the molecular structure of the receptor. The receptor, in turn, changes the conformation of the microfilaments positioned just inside the plasma membrane. These conformational changes induce chemical signals inside the cell that reach the nucleus and turn “on” or “off” the transcription of specific sections of DNA, which affects the production of associated proteins, thus changing the activities within the cell.

Blood clotting provides an example of the role of the extracellular matrix in cell communication. When the cells lining a blood vessel are damaged, they display a protein receptor called tissue factor. When tissue factor binds with another factor in the extracellular matrix, it causes platelets to adhere to the wall of the damaged blood vessel, stimulates the adjacent smooth muscle cells in the blood vessel to contract (thus constricting the blood vessel), and initiates a series of steps that stimulate the platelets to produce clotting factors.

Intercellular junctions

Cells can also communicate with each other via direct contact, referred to as intercellular junctions. There are some differences in the ways that plant and animal cells do this. Plasmodesmata are junctions between plant cells, whereas animal cell contacts include tight junctions, gap junctions, and desmosomes.

Plasmodesmata

In general, long stretches of the plasma membranes of neighboring plant cells cannot touch one another because they are separated by the cell wall that surrounds each cell ( [link] b ). How then, can a plant transfer water and other soil nutrients from its roots, through its stems, and to its leaves? Such transport uses the vascular tissues (xylem and phloem) primarily. There also exist structural modifications called plasmodesmata (singular = plasmodesma), numerous channels that pass between cell walls of adjacent plant cells, connect their cytoplasm, and enable materials to be transported from cell to cell, and thus throughout the plant ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

What is the instrument used for measuring water potential?
Agyeiwaa Reply
tensiometers
osometer
MP
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tunz Reply
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HAMIDAH
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Cabdi
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HAMIDAH
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Sandra Reply
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tunz
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Cabdi
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HAMIDAH
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Peace
Main branch of biology are,zoology, botany and microbiology
Agyeiwaa
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AAYAT Reply
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Edward Reply
the fusion of chromosomes at yhe the beginning of meiosis
Hassan
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Regina Reply
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Sarah
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Sarah
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Raymond
genetic is define as the scientific study of heredity and variation in living things
HAMIDAH
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Davies Reply
it alters the rate of chemical reaction
tunz
-some require coenzymes -they re inhibited by inhibitors -they re required in minute amount -they speed up the rate of chemical reaction
HAMIDAH
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al
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what is the difference between meiosi and
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TCRs. in full. and was it all about .Tell me about all of immunity.
KIIZA Reply
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Glory Reply
what is a cell
Innocent Reply
basic unit of life
Adoma
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Senamile
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angelina
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Senamile Reply
hi
Samuel
The daughter cell would not separate from the parent cell.
Eric
it will separate when it matured
Oberdy
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Samuel
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Innocent
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Samuel
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Chromosomes are duplicated during what stage of cell cycle
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what are organic and inorganic fertilizer
Afia
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what is the function of a nucleus
Japheth Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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