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Cell communication

  1. Oct 22, 2008 #1
    Do cells communicate with each other using electrical signals? and if so is it because when the membrane of the cell takes on a charge it affects the adjacent cell to it which affects that cells membranes charge?

    and how is that helpful to what is happening on the inside of the cell
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2008 #2


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    To the best of my knowledge, cells do not communicate with each other using electrical signals. Electrical signals are involved in the function of neurons (brain cells), but these electrical signals are used to convey a signal from one point in a neuron (the dendritic spine) to another point (the synaptic terminal). The actual communication between neurons is chemical in nature (neurotransmitter molecules).
  4. Oct 23, 2008 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    Cells can comminicate in several different ways: the general terms are 'autocrine', 'paracrine' and 'endocrine'. All cell communication, at root, involves the transport of a signalling molecule (which can involve electrical processes, for example the action potential).

    autocrine signalling is when a cell essentially communicates to itself- a signalling molecule is released and then binds to a receptor on that same cell.

    paracrine signalling involves cells communicating with it's neighbors-either through release of signalling molecules or through cell-cell junctions (gap junctions).

    endocrine signalling involves the release of signalling molecules which then circulate through the entire body.
  5. Oct 23, 2008 #4
    Neurons DO communicate via "electrical synapses". These are gap junctions that connect a network of cells to one another. There is a characteristic response that can be observed in patch clamp recording of one cell while a gap-junction connected cell is stimulated. We can differentiate this response from that of a chemical synapse.

    Such networks are observed primarily in (putative) inhibitory cells. There is a large literature in slice physiology observing and classifying these gap-junction networks.

    Separately from the story with neurons. There are also gap-junctions forming the connections in astrocytic networks. This allows the "astrocytic action potentials" (calcium waves) to pass through astrocytic networks.
  6. Oct 23, 2008 #5


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    Ah, that does remind me that heart cells also communicate with each other through action potentials (electrical signals) that propagate via gap junctions.

    Also, I stand corrected about neurons. Thanks.
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