Friday, 5 December 2014

Cell Signalling: Signals Within or Between Cells?

When somebody tells me they work on cell signalling I have to ask them what they mean. They look shocked. That is because those who work on signals within cells usurped the phrase to mean just that—intracellular signalling. To me and to those who had anything to do with endocrinology (when that subject was a science and not a clinical speciality with science attached) or neurophysiology, the term meant signalling between cells—intercellular.

The usurpation of the term has been partially redressed by Science who I see have extended the scope of the journal Science Signaling (with the American single ‘l’ which does not look right to a Brit) to cover signalling between cells and indeed to between organisms. I read:
While Science Signaling continues to publish the leading research regarding intracellular signaling pathways, the journal’s expanded scope includes research into the mechanisms and effects of intercellular communication and interspecies [interspecific] communication in processes regulating cellular behavior, physiology, and disease in cross-disciplinary fields of biology.
Apart from apparently bulking interspecific signalling with intraspecific signalling between individual organisms, it seems clear that Science Signaling is at last recognising that the intracellular signalling pathway chasers are only part of the story in biological signalling as a whole, a subject on which I wrote a commentary, Chemical signalling systems: the rules of the game in the Journal of Endocrinology, which, I am pleased to say, is available online.