Directed cell migration plays a critical role in embryonic development. To migrate in a directed way, a cell must be able to detect and move towards a source of an attractive signal (chemoattractant) or away from a repulsive one. This requires the creation of spatially asymmetrical signaling that leads to extension of leading edge protrusions such as lamellipodia, the generation of traction and force, and a balance of detachment and attachment to neighboring cells and the extracellular matrix. Thus, there is a constant need for the cell to coordinate a variety of extracellular and intracellular activities both spatially and temporally. The challenge is to understand how the cell compartmentalizes, yet cooperatively couples, these activities to drive directed cell movement and how upstream signaling controls this behavior. Toward this end investigators in the Department of Biochemistry study growth factor signaling that is modulated by specific extracellular matrix proteins, and induces specific changes in cellular architecture. In vivo and 3-dimensional ex vivo models are studied in which growth factor signaling and downstream effectors are modulated through introduction of mutant forms, and resultant morphology and cell migration are analyzed.

Faculty conducting research in these areas: