within the Cell
Up to this point, we have examined how cells communicate
among themselves and the means by which one cell sends
its message to another. We touched on the functions
of these messages (hormones) and the effects they have
on cells. In this section we will examine how the message
carried to the cell by a hormone is transferred from
the cell's membrane to its nucleus. In other words,
we will examine the communication system inside the
The Communications Center in a Cell
and Its Stations
Most of us are familiar with high communications towers,
and many of us have seen television news reports of
the opening of such installations. The first impression
that these images leave on our minds is probably the
image of a structure full of antennas and complicated
electrical devices. This idea is not mistaken because,
in order to understand the technological devices used
in these installations, one must have a certain engineering
expertise in electronics and communications. Besides
this, almost all of us believe that these facilities
are now indispensable in enabling us to establish communication
with people in every part of the world. Just think of
this: What would happen if all the communications towers,
with their centers and stations, were to shut down for
a short time? There is no doubt that this situation
would cause great chaos and anxiety. But, no matter
how much material damage might result, it could still
Communication within a cell begins when molecules
carrying a message such as a hormone approach
the cell. Receptors on the cell's membrane receive
the message and relay it to other molecules in
the cell that are responsible for communication.
This facilitates the activation of certain genes
in the DNA and causes the production of the proteins
contained in the message.
However, if the communication between
our hundred trillion cells, or the communication within
one cell, were to shut down for just an instant, and
the cellular messages were not to reach their destination,
the result would be death. Modern communication systems
are established using electronic and mechanical devices
with the most advanced technology. However, the advanced
technology of the inner communications systems of cells,
which is too advanced for human beings to fathom, is
constructed with the use of devices structured from
protein. Inside protein there are no electrical circuits
(or even semi-conductors) as exist in modern devices;
in their place are atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen
and nitrogen. There are an estimated 30,000 different
proteins in our body and of these, the function of only
two percent is completely understood.44
The function performed for human beings by many proteins
is still largely unknown.
Today, communication devices are of great importance
to humanity. There is a flawless communication
network in our bodies that has been in place and
working since the first person was created.
The communications system among cells in some ways
resembles systems used by human beings. For example,
on the membranes of the cells there are "antennae" that
allow them to sense the messages that come to them.
Immediately under these antennae are "power stations"
which decode the message sent to the cell.
These antennae are located on the one hundred thousandth
of a millimeter thick cell membrane that surrounds the
cell. This receptor, which is known as "tyrosine kinase,"
is composed of three basic sections: the antenna, the
body and the tail. The shape of the part of the antenna
that projects out from the cell membrane resembles a
dish antenna used to collect satellite transmissions.
Just as each dish antenna is designed to receive certain
satellite transmissions, there are different receptors
that understand the language of the messages carried
by various hormone molecules.
The messages coming from different cells/hormones come
into contact with the antennae on the cell membrane,
but each antenna is designed to sense only one single
message. This is a very special instance of design and
because of this, a message cannot be sent in error to
The great harmony in which hormones and antennae are
created in relation to one another can be compared to
the lock-and-key relation observed in almost all biological
activity. Only the right key can open the lock; that
is, only the right cell will have anything to do with
the message sent, this message being without meaning
for other cells.
|On the membrane of
each cell are antennae that ensure that messages
are received. These antennae are "tyrosine
kinase." Tyrosine kinase is composed of an
antenna, a body and a tail. The exposed part of
the antenna looks like a dish used to receive satellite
At the moment the hormone reaches the cell, it sets
an incredible system into motion. By means of a very
special communications system, the message coming to
the cell is sent to that cell's DNA. The cell is then
moved in action according to the message.
Information is transmitted via the Internet to
a personal computer connected to a computer network.
This computer sends the information it receives
to a printer that puts it on paper. For millions
of years there has been a perfect communication
system in cells that functions in a way similar
to the high technology used by human beings today.
In order to understand just how wonderful this operation
is, think about an ordinary occurrence that everyone
can encounter in their daily life. Information is sent
via the Internet to a personal computer connected to
a network of other computers. The information sent to
the computer is transmitted to another unit, for example,
to a printer, and the printer puts the information on
paper. People have been using computers since the 1980's;
they are used at home and in the workplace and, since
the mid 90's, the Internet has become a part of people's
lives. If you read in a newspaper one day that a computer
has been built that was too small for the eye to see,
and that this computer was communicating with other
computers, your reaction would be quite different. Perhaps
you would not believe that this technology could be
compacted to such a small size. However, in real life
there is a communications system with a technology much
more highly developed that this, working in an area
too small for the eye to see.
The fact that a message coming to a cell's antennae
is transmitted at great speed to the nucleus of the
cell, and that a highly advanced technology is employed
in the process of this communication, is a much greater
wonder than a microscopically small computer. This is
because a cell is a piece of flesh and your whole body,
from your eyes with which you are reading this site
to your hands you are holding it with, is formed by
cells working together. In the body of each one of us,
there are 100 trillion small organisms possessed of
a highly advanced communications system. Now let us
examine the system by which the message reaching the
cell is transmitted inside the cell, and let us see
the wonder of creation manifested in a piece of flesh
one percent of a millimeter in size.
44 M. Encarta
Encyclopedia 2000, "Protein"