Ligands And Receptors

Your body is always talking to itself. No, I don’t mean you are cuckoo. Your cells are communicating within themselves to get you to do stuff. Reading this article is one such example. For your body to function, your body has to send signals to the appropriate part of your body. It is this message that will make it react. The reaction can range from a host of outcomes including inflammation as a result of your getting injured to your body synthesizing its food. This journey of signaling starts at a cellular level when a ligand binds to a receptor to kick start this process.

A ligand is a signaling molecule. Its role is to tell a cell what do do. To do so, it binds to something known as a receptor. Ligands and receptors are closely matched pairs. They are capable or recognizing each other in a narrow range. The binding of a ligand to a receptor changes its activity or shape, allowing it to transmit a signal or transform the cell in some way. For example, a hormone can bind to its receptor and make it change its shape, allowing the hormone to enter the cell and regulate gene activity.

Apparently, cells need to control which ligand can bind to a receptor and then travel onto the cell. It does this through a fascinating process. Think of the women connecting telephone lines in the 1950’s to patch you to the person you were calling. In much the same way, transport chains open up to allow a ligand to enter or not enter a cell depending on whether your body wishes to allow it through. This communication is taking place all the time as your body goes about trying to live a normal life.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.