In the process of cell communication, the cells produce signaling molecules that interact with other cells. In most cases, hormones are the signal molecules that are produced by the cells for communication. Hormones communicate to cells by binding to the receptors on the cell surface. The binding of the hormones to the receptors triggers various reactions in the cell. The signaling molecules include gas, lipids, proteins, and chemical molecule. Signaling molecules can bind to the receptors found on the cell surface or they can pass through the plasma membrane to bind to the intracellular receptors found in the cytoplasm and nucleus. Based on the distance of the signal transmitted by the hormone they are divided into three categories and they are as follows:
Autocrine signaling The endocrine hormones that are produced by endocrine cells give endocrine signaling. They travel to the distant part of the body through the blood to act upon the target cells. The signaling molecule that acts upon the neighboring cell is known as paracrine signaling. In autocrine signaling, the signaling molecules produced acts on themselves to bring about changes in their function.
Steroid hormones are lipids that are derived from cholesterol. They target the intracellular receptors present in the cytoplasm and nucleus. As the hormones are made up of lipids, they are capable to pass through the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. The steroid hormones are small and hydrophobic. There are two types of steroids hormones namely sex steroids and corticosteroids. The hormones of the sex steroids include progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen and,the gonads produce them. They communicate with the gonads to produce the sex hormones that are responsible for the development of male and female characteristics. Corticosteroids are produced by the adrenal cortex and they are divided into mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. Mineralocorticoid hormones regulate mineral and water content in the kidney and glucocorticoids regulate the production of glucose.
Nitric oxide and carbon monoxide in cell communication:
Nitric oxide and carbon monoxide are produced by the activation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Nitric oxide is derived by the action of nitric oxide synthase on amino acid arginine. They are synthesized in the neuron and helps in the dilation of the blood vessels. They act as a paracrine signaling molecule. Nitric oxide diffuses through the plasma membrane and regulates the activity of the target enzymes. Carbon monoxide also mediates the dilation of blood vessels and is synthesized in the neurons.
Neurotransmitters, Peptide hormones, and Eicosanoids:
Neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters are the chemical molecules that are released by the neurons. They can transmit signals from neurons to neurons or from neurons to other cells. Neurotransmitters are hydrophilic molecules and therefore cannot cross the plasma membrane. The receptors for the neurotransmitters are found on the surface of the cells. The neurotransmitters bind to the extracellular receptors that bring about the conformational change in the receptor. The changes in the receptor activate the opening or closing of the ion channels that are used to create an action potential. The action potential is converted into electrical signals that are perceived by the brain. Examples of neurotransmitters include acetylcholine, histamine, GABA, serotonin, and so on.
Peptide hormones Peptide hormones are made up of amino acids. Hormones in this category can be peptide hormone, neuropeptides, and polypeptide growth factors. The peptide hormones cannot cross the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. Therefore, the receptors of the peptide hormones are present on the surface of the cells. The peptide hormones include insulin that regulates the blood glucose level and pituitary gland hormones such as prolactin that stimulates the production of milk. Neuropeptides are produced by neurons and they include enkephalins and endorphins. They act as both neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Enkephalins and endorphins act as painkillers. Nerve growth factor (NGF) is an example of a polypeptide growth factor. They communicate with the cells through extracellular signaling. They stimulate the growth and differentiation of the cell.
Eicosanoids Eicosanoids are the lipid molecules that bind to the surface receptors of the cells. They act as autocrine and paracrine signaling molecules. The examples include prostacyclin, leukotrienes prostaglandins, and thromboxanes. They stimulate contraction of smooth- muscle and aggregation of the platelet.
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