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Cell Signalling

Updated on December 14, 2012

Cell signalling is the communication between cells by means of chemicals for co-ordination between cells.

There are three main types of cell signalling:

  1. The receptor acts as an ion channel
  2. The receptor activates a G-protein
  3. The receptor acts as an enzyme

Although there are three types of cell signalling the basics remain the same.

A signal molecule (this could be a hormone) attaches to a receptor molecule in the plasma membrane (a protein or glycoprotein) . If the two have a complimentary shape, (the signal molecule fits the receptor molecule, like a lock and key) this will bring about a response in the cell. Each signal molecule has a specific receptor, this is how the cell decides which reaction or response is appropriate.

The receptor acts as an ion channel

In this method the signal molecule attaches to a receptor in this case a channel protein this changes the shape of the channel opening it and allowing ions into the cell. This brings about a response.


The receptor activates a G-protein

In this the signal molecule attaches to the receptor in the plasma membrane, this activates a G-protein inside the cell. This in turn activates an enzyme which brings about a reaction inside the cell.

The receptor acts as an enzyme

In this third type of cell signalling the receptor is an enzyme in 2 parts. The signal molecule slots into both parts of the receptor, creating one active enzyme. This enzyme brings about a reaction inside the cell.


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    • loquacious-mare profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Isle of Wight

      Well thank-you for reading it, cell biology is the part of biology that interests me the most!

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      5 years ago

      TFScientist, This is so absolutely cool. Do you have a hub on this? I have a bunch of questions but I need more information to develop them. For example, is the "signalling cascade within the cell" specifically timed, and if so what determines the timing? "Division of labor" to whom? Specific cells, or molecules? I'm glad they are not unionized--would that ever screw things up. I'll go to your site and check out your hubs.

      Loquacious, Thanks for writing this hub and getting me started on what is going to be a very fascinating study.

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 

      5 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      A conformational change of the G protein causes a signalling cascade within the cell. This will ultimately cause the desired effect, usually utilising division of labor to achieve it. For example, the change may trigger the endocytosis of an extra cellular substance, which will be directed to the Golgi body in a vesicle. The substances will then be transported to the correct area of the cell. It is like morse code signalling, where the movement of the hammer causes a distinct message to be transmitted, which in turn is changed into a physical letter that can be acted upon.

      Of course this is a gross oversimplification. What causes the response is different for each signal and each response. This allows for strict control of response by the cell.

    • loquacious-mare profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Isle of Wight

      I'm not sure, but in some cases the reaction stimulated by the enzyme creates a substance needed.

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting. I'm curious, do you happen to know what causes the response after communication has been made?


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