Genetic and molecular mechanisms regulating cell migration and invasion
MARÍA DOLORES MARTÍN BERMUDO
Cell migration plays a key role in a wide variety of biological phenomena that take place during both embryogenesis and in the adult organism. During embryonic development there are numerous stages where organ or tissue formation depends upon the migration of primordial cells over large distances. Cell migration is also essential for immune cells to monitor the body and for epithelial cells to heal a wound. Furthermore, this behaviour, a fascinating process in normal cells involving numerous intricately coordinated and controlled processes, becomes destructive and damaging when acquired by cancerous cells. Hence a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that transform stationary cells into migratory would not only help to learn more about embryogenesis, but also help to understand, or even treat cancer. Both during development and in the adulthood, cells can move individually or collectively. The Drosophila model permits the in vivo examination of distinct aspects of cellular migration, such as the acquisition of the capacity to migrate or the process of migration itself, from both genetic and molecular perspectives. Thus, in our laboratory, we aim to exploit the advantages of the Drosophila model to advance in our understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms that regulate these two modes of cell migration. To study collective cell migration, we use the migration of the border cells and that of the follicular epithelium as our model system, while embryonic hemocytes are used to study individual cell migration (Fig.1). In particular, some of our objectives include: to analyse the role of cell-ECM interactions in cell migration; to advance in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating collective cell migration and finally, to identify the signature of a migrating versus stationary mode. In addition, using the larval midgut, we are also trying to characterize genes that promote metastatic behaviour.