Physical Geography and Sciences


Alexandra Bone



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Alexandra Bone, BIO495: Independent Project
Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Derek Beahm, Biology

Cell volume is fundamentally important to normal cell function. Volume changes arise when normal or pathological conditions create an osmotic imbalance across the plasma membrane, resulting in water influx or efflux until the inside of the cell is osmotically matched to the external environment. Knowledge of cell volume regulation has been obtained primarily through studies on isolated single cells. However, most cell types communicate with each other directly through gap junction channels that allow the cells to share small molecules including water, ions, metabolites, and signaling molecules. Gap junctions provide a transport pathway between cells that does not involve the plasma membrane. We are interested in understanding if and how gap junction communication affects the rate and extent of cell volume changes. An important part of the project is to measure volume changes in individual cells within a cell population. Fluorescent stains and confocal microscopy were used to generate 3-dimensional models of cell monolayers before and after exposure to osmotic challenges. Data is presented on the use of nuclear cross-sectional area and cell height as indirect measures of cell volume. We found that cell height changes correlated well with cell shrinking and swelling induced by exposing homogeneous cell populations to hypertonic and hypotonic media, respectively. Additional data will be presented on volume changes of cells in heterogeneous populations before and after the application of gap junction blockers. These data contribute to ongoing efforts to better understand the role of gap junction communication in cell volume dynamics.

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Does Cell Communication Modulate Volume Changes?
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