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Adhesive Specificity and the Evolution of Multicellularity

  1. Kris Vleminckx

Published Online: 16 MAY 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001273.pub2

eLS

eLS

How to Cite

Vleminckx, K. 2011. Adhesive Specificity and the Evolution of Multicellularity. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Ghent University, Department of Biomedical Molecular Biology, Ghent, Belgium

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 MAY 2011

Abstract

Most of the cells in a multicellular organism are connected to each other and/or attached to a substrate. Physically this is mediated by adhesion molecules exposed on the cell surface and attached to the cell membrane either by covalent linkage to the lipid bilayer or by a membrane-spanning region. The establishment of cell–cell interactions is a key aspect in the origin of multicellular life forms and the acquisition of tissue and organ organisation in metazoa. Adhesion is mediated by specific adhesion molecules belonging to the immunoglobulin superfamily, the cadherins, the integrins, the lectins and the proteoglycans. Adhesive associations by these molecules are organising forces in the embryo, controlling morphogenesis, tissue formation and organogenesis. In the adult, cell adhesion helps to control tissue homoeostasis, the organisation of the stem cell niche and the functioning of the immune system.

Key Concepts:

  • Multicellularity requires cell–cell adhesion molecules.

  • Cell adhesion molecules interact structurally and/or functionally with the cytoskeleton of the cell.

  • Cell adhesion molecules integrate extracellular and intracellular cues with intracellular signalling.

  • Cell adhesion molecules are more than molecular glue; they can act as signalling receptors inducing changes in the cytoskeleton and in gene expression.

  • Expression of cell adhesion molecules is under tight developmental control.

  • Changes in cell adhesion are a driving force for morphogenesis, tissue formation and organogenesis.

  • In the adult cell adhesion helps to maintain the stem cell niche and controls homeostasis.

  • Cell adhesion is essential for the functioning of the immune system.

  • Aberrant regulation of cell adhesion is involved in several human diseases.

Keywords:

  • immunology;
  • multicellular organisms;
  • development;
  • morphogenesis;
  • neurogenesis;
  • stem cells;
  • cadherins;
  • integrins;
  • lectins;
  • organogenesis