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The Art in Science

Product Image Life is a Highway

Life is a Highway

Brandon Carpenter, Graduate Student (Allen Laboratory) Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School

Inside every one of our cells is a complex system of “highways” along which many proteins and vesicles (together called cargo) are transported. These highways are formed of tiny hollow tubular structures called microtubules, which appear like a spidery web within the cells (whitish strands in the image). Specialized protein “motors” move the cargo in a very organized manner back and forth to various locations within the cell, including the nucleus (blue). Some of these microtubular tracks lead to a structure known as the primary cilium (red) that acts as a cellular antenna, sensing specific signals in the environment. Defects in trafficking along microtubule highways or into and out of the cilia can lead to numerous human pathologies, including various types of cancer and developmental defects.