Professor David Van Vactor describes the role of receptor molecules, which receive signals from outside the cell, passing the signal to the inside.
In order for a nerve cell, or any cell, to perceive its environment, it needs a sensory apparatus. And for an individual cell, most of that sensation is derived at the cell surface. So, it expresses on its cell surface proteins that span across the membrane. In the outside world, these proteins can act to receive signals, catching molecules on the outside and then as the molecule passes to the inside of the cell, they can send signals like alarm signals that can tell the cell that a particular molecule is outside.
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In this section learn that the binding of growth factors outside the cell causes receptors ends to intertwine and activate each other, and once active, the modified receptor ends interact with messenger proteins.