40 St George St
Toronto, ON M5S 2E4
Integration of actin and adhesion dynamics in cell migration
Clare M. Waterman, PhD
NIH Distinguished Investigator, Laboratory of Cell and Tissue Morphodynamics,
National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez, Assistant Professor
The process of directed cellular movement is of critical importance to human health, as is observed when immune cells seek out infected tissues or metastatic cancer cells invade new organs.
When cells move directionally through the extracellular matrix (ECM) of complex glycoproteins that make up their environment, they do so by protruding their surface membrane in the direction of migration, forming stable focal adhesions of the protrusion to the ECM, pulling against the adhesion to move the cell body forward, and dissolving the older adhesion sites at the back to retract the rear edge.
Dr. Waterman is now focused on integration of the actin dynamics in the cell with the integrin signals from the ECM that direct cellular motility. To address these questions, Dr. Waterman’s laboratory uses a variety of advanced techniques that allow them to study cytoskeletal and adhesion dynamics, and measure minute forces.
For example, the use of traction force microscopy allows Dr. Waterman to measure the forces between the cell and the ECM while fluorescence speckle microscopy allows her to measure protein dynamics. By correlating the forces with protein dynamics under different molecular perturbations, Dr. Waterman can bridge the intellectual gap between molecular signaling and physical changes that are the final effectors of movement.
Key to Dr. Waterman’s approach is a willingness to embrace interdisciplinarity to solve complex biological problems. Her laboratory includes cell biologists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and mouse geneticists, which she views as critical to achieving her research goals.