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Identification and characterization of novel genes regulating cell migration

Final Activity Report Summary - CELL MIGRATION (Identification and characterisation of novel genes regulating cell migration)

Cell migration occurs during development of multicellular organisms, but it is also involved in pathological conditions, like invasive migration of tumour cells leading to metastases. Conversion of stationary epithelial cells to invasive migratory cells involves changes in transcription, cytoskeletal organisation as well as signalling pathways. Cells can migrate either alone or as groups, both normally and in cancer. The migration of border cells during Drosophila oogenesis provides a powerful genetically tractable model to study developmentally regulated cell migration in vivo.

We have developed an imaging method, which allows us to watch this migration process live. This allows us, in combination with genetic tools to study how group of cells moves as a unit. We have found, interestingly, that these cells move by two different modes. Initially the group of cells is lead by one cell, which pulls the rest of the cluster along. Later on, the cells take a more 'democratic' approach, and it seems that all cells are playing a role in deciding which direction to move. The two migration modes have quite distinct sensitivities to downstream signalling pathways of receptor tyrosine kinases and our results show that the difference in signalling levels between individual cells is used to guide the migration of the whole group. We are currently investigating how this difference in signalling is translated into effective migration.