Cast of Characters
Striated Skeletal Muscle cell – "Beef" Stroganoff
(Famous Hungarian strong man)
Trichinella spiralis - "Tricky" Nella
(She has played to packed houses the world over)
Hey, you! Yes, you! You can't come poking your pointy little nose in here without an invitation. Do you know who I am? I'm big and strong (Beef flexes his sliding filaments). I am a fully differentiated, multinucleated, striated skeletal muscle cell, that’s who. So watch it, kid! What’s your name, anyway?
Did you say striated skeletal muscle cell? Well, bless my little nerve ring, I've searched and probed for you ever since I went into circulation, so to speak. If you don't mind, and even if you do, I'll stay, although I must admit that you’re not at all what I had expected based on where I‘m from. Oh yes,. ……my name. Friends call me ‘Nella’, but my real name is Trichinella. Trichinella spiralis, to be exact. They used to call me Trichina, but that was a long time ago. Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t have too many friends. But that, too, is another story.
Well, Nella - is it OK if I call you Nella - welcome to my precision-made liquid crystal home.I can tell by the look on your face that you not impressed. In fact, just look what you've done to the integrity of my sarcolemmal membrane! You know, you're rather inconsiderate for such a pitiful little creature. Besides, its already crowded in here, so where do you think your going to sit? (ASIDE: There's something sinister about her that I can't quite put my Z bands on that tells me I'm in for a real sleigh ride!). As long as you've decided to stay, pull up a few myosin filaments and take a load off. What brings you to this part of the "Bod" ? What do you want, anyway?
Well, now that you mention it, there is one thing (or maybe two or three, or even more) that you can do to make me feel more at home. Begin by allowing me to inhibit the myogenic program in all your overly protective satellite cell friends out there. I can't stand an ever - changing environment, but you wouldn't know what I meant by that would you? Besides, I'm starting to feel hungry, and in your present boring configuration you couldn't possibly afford to keep me in the style to which I will soon become accustomed.
Chorus of satellite cells: Our genes are tied, our genes are tied, our... genes... are... ti.
Message from satellite cells to Beef: Sorry, Beef, but we can't help you. You'll just have to manage from here on without us
Beef faces other muscle cells and laments: I can't stand cells that change genomic programs. I get a pain in my nucleosomes just thinking about it! Heck, the last time I re-arranged the furniture around here I was just a skinny little satellite cell, myself! Funny, my serpiginous invader seems to have fallen asleep. Look at her. She just lies there while I slave away (did I say slave!), up regulating all sorts of genes I haven't used in years. These old prune-like nuclei of mine will just have to wake up and express themselves. I don't know what that stuff she squirted into my myofilaments was before she nodded off, but it sure was powerful. Hic, Hic!! I wonder what that tubular, diminutive eukaryote will dream up next?
LATER (2 days worth to be exact).
Alright, time to rise and shine. My friends have all deserted me, thanks to you! Now what?
Thought: Hmmmmmmm, somehow she looks bigger, and stronger.
Ahhhhhhhh (worm yawn). I feel better already. We can now develop and grow as one. Isn't that a wonderful thought? First, I want you to divide all of your nuclei that fall within shouting distance of my voice, and then replicate the DNA in each of them. That will come in handy later when I, er, I mean we need to express multiple copies of your genes during the construction of my, I mean our new dream house. Sorry about the selfish reference to me all the time, but the thought of sharing a common cytoplasm with someone else is new to me. In the meantime, there seems to be enough raw material around now that you’ve been de-constructed for me to re-cycle your amino acids, etc. into my proteins, etc. So if you'll excuse me, I'll begin the exponential phase of my growth and development now. Oh, yes. I almost forgot. One more thing. Surprise ! I'm an anaerobe! Restricted diet and all, you know. But not to worry. Why don't you become anaerobic, too. I order you to give up all that bad toxic 02, you naughty, naughty boy! Then we can consume massive quantities of glucose and ride into the sunset on a succinate high! By the way, what's your sign?
Taurus. Why do you ask? Never mind. Ok, Ok, I'll do as you say. In fact, I'll do anything you want, just please don't kill me
Hey, hold on! What the heck have you done to all my little mitochondria buddies?
Thought: Good Lord, is this Dudette in a hurry, or what? Just look at her grow!.
By the by, did you know you drool a lot?
Kill you? Why should I do that? After all, we're in this thing together. In fact, you're all I've got. (ASIDE: And soon I'll be all you've got!). Listen up, big guy! If we both express our genomes in just the right patterns, we should be able to out-live the rest of this crummy hunk of cytoplasm you call "The Bod". Incidentally, what's wrong with my drooling? I got your attention with it, didn't I? And besides, I thought you liked how it tastes. You know, kind of sweet and sugary".
Yea, but I never knew tyvelose could be so addictive! So it’s us against the world, eh? Fair enough, I guess. What else have you got up that thin little cuticle of yours?
(ANOTHER PAUSE. Beef struggles but gets nowhere)...
I can’t believe this! I’m..., I’m paralyzed from the neck down! ARGH! What kind of a monster have you turned into, anyway?
Funny you should ask! I’m a parasite, you dork! We're going to need lots more smooth membranes. They'll come in handy for transporting nutrients in and out of our cellular matrix. Oh, and now that I think of it, lets make our roof out of collagen types IV and VI, since you already know how to make them. Just over-express each one and I'll tell you when there's enough. Now that our little niche is devoid of oxygen, if I'm not mistaken this should result in a cascade of events culminating in the formation of blood vessels that will surround and feed us. If that dosen’t work then I’ll just have to bring some more of my magic potent into play. Either way, our collagen roof will become entwined in a circulatory rete! Isn’t it romantic? Glucose unlimited! Yummy, yum. Then my, I mean OUR future will be insured. (ASIDE: I really meant mine!). Since you take such good care of me, I'll call you my ‘Nurse’ cell (sigh!).
I caught that last slip of your degenerated stylet. You really do have some nerve! Lemme see if I got all this straight. First you walk into my home without an invitation, then demand that I rearrange everything because you want it like that. And you expect me to be grateful to you for keeping me alive just so you can continue to have your way with me! Don't I have any say around here at all? And by the way, where do you get off calling me a ‘Nurse’ cell? Do you think I wanted to do all this changing? Boy, do I miss the action of contraction (potential, that is!) .
Enough complaining, already! Consider yourself lucky, Mr. Beef, or what ever you are now. Most of the other intracellular parasites I know would just as soon eat you for lunch as look at you. Compared to them, I've got class and style. So relax and enjoy the ride! And just in case your thinking of doing something funny - you know, like trying to escape by changing back to your former muscle-bound self, you flabby old bag of membranes, right about now you’d make a better hero sandwich than a hero. Oh no, don’t worry, I know all about those redundant bHLH genes of yours - myogenin, Myo-D1, MYRF4, Myf-5, and even E47. So don’t give me that innocent look. In fact, just to be on the safe side, I've embedded a set of transcription factor inhibitors inside your central switching units in all of your hypertrophic nuclei and secreted them throughout our common cytoplasm, too. That should keep things ‘Nurse cell-like’ around here from now on.
(Abrupt, conciliatory mood swing). "By the way, dear, what are these adorable little mononuclear cells doing inside our new home? There are so many of them! Did you invite them in or did I? And why are they staring at us like that"?
Scribe Aside: Those "strange" little cells may actually be helping the angiogenic process along, or perhaps they are on Beefs' side, after all and have come to his rescue! Stay tuned worm lovers!
The End (but for whom?)
Scribe: Dickson Despommier
This has been A "Worms Are Us" Production