Many living things can respond to electric fields, either moving or using them to detect prey or enemies. Weak electric fields may be important growth and development, and in wound healing: it’s known that one of the signals that guides cells into a wound to repair it is a disturbance in the normal electric field between tissues. This ability to move in response to an electric field is called galvanotaxis or electrotaxis.
UC Davis dermatology professor Min Zhao, Peter Devroetes at Johns Hopkins University and colleagues hope to unravel how these responses work, studying both body cells and Dictyostelium discoideum, an amoeba that lives in soil. Dictyostelium is unusual because it spends part of its life crawling around as a single-cell amoeba, but occasionally multiple amoebae will come together to form a fruiting body.
In a paper just published in the journal Science Signaling, Zhao and colleagues screened Dictyostelium for genes that affect electrotaxis. They used special barcoded microplates developed by Tingrui Pan, professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis to screen hundreds of amoeba strains.
More information: A large-scale screen reveals genes that mediate electrotaxis in Dictyostelium discoideum, Sci. Signal., 26 May 2015. Vol. 8, Issue 378, p. ra50, DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aab0562
Amoeba crawling in an electric field. Published on May 28, 2015UC
Davis researcher Min Zhao and colleagues are looking for genes that
allow living cells to detect electric fields. This could be important in
wound healing. They found that removing a gene called PiaA disrupts the
ability of the soil amoeba Dictyostelium to respond to an electric