Signal Reception in Cells

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  • 0:07 What Is Signal Reception?
  • 1:49 Receiving the Signal
  • 2:43 Receptor Proteins
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Our cells 'talk' to each other all the time through chemical signals. The first step of this process, reception, is a critical component. In this video lesson you will learn about this step in cell communication as well as understand its overall importance.

What Is Signal Reception?

Just like communication between people is important, effective cellular communication is also critical. Cell communication is similar to how we talk to each other: there is a sender that delivers the message or signal and a receiver that receives that signal. Problems can arise if the sender doesn't deliver the message correctly or if the receiver doesn't even get the message in the first place. Fortunately, miscommunications between cells are very rare because this can severely compromise cell functionality.

There are three stages involved in cell communication. The first stage is the receiving of the signal, called reception. Just like you and your friend talk to each other, cells also 'talk' to one another. But instead of using words, a signaling cell sends its message to its target (called a target cell) in the form of a signaling molecule. The signal itself is received at a receptor protein.

Once the molecule has been received by the target cell, it triggers a series of steps that help decode the message called the signal transduction pathway. Transduction, which is the second step in cell signaling, is the overall process of a converting a signal to a form that the target cell can understand. This is like your friend hearing you talk and then their brain translating and understanding your words.

The final stage of cell signaling is response, which is when the target cell responds to the signal received. This is like your friend's response or action to your words… hopefully they understood you correctly!

In this lesson we'll focus on signal reception. We'll cover transduction and response in detail in other lessons.

Receiving the Signal

Cell signaling is a very specific function. When you talk to your friend, someone else can easily overhear you and intercept your message. But this is not the case with cells. Target cells have their receptor proteins, and these proteins have the very important job of receiving signaling molecules. Likewise, signaling molecules are shaped so that they fit into only certain receptor proteins, like a lock and key. You could say these two really are made for each other!

Because the signaling molecule specifically binds to another molecule, we call it a ligand. When the ligand binds to the receptor protein, it causes the protein to change shape. What this does is allow the protein to interact with other cellular molecules, starting that chain reaction down the signal transduction pathway. It's like flicking the light switch in the receptor protein from the 'off' position to 'on.'

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