Research Unit

Vesicular Trafficking and Cell Signalling

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Gregory Emery focuses on the mechanisms regulating cell polarization and cell signalling during development and in cancer cells. His recent work has mainly involved collective cell migration.

Research theme

Cell polarization is a vital process in the development of multicellular organisms. Not only is it a prerequisite for possible cell specialization, but it is also necessary for their migration by indicating the direction in which the cells must travel.

During the course of cell migration, the cells must react to their environment in order to polarize and invade tissues. Certain mechanisms are used by most moving cells, however, many variations are observed. In particular, certain cells travel as a group, which brings new challenges: the cells must remain attached to each other in order to move effectively and they must coordinate themselves to move in the right direction.

Because most metastatic cells migrate as a group, understanding this migration mode could lead to developing new strategies for attacking the spread of cancer that would specifically target collective migration.

Research objectives

Gregory Emery’s group thus tries to understand how vesicular trafficking and the actin cytoskeleton control the collective cell migration.

To do so, it uses the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model system. This system provides Investigators with several advantages, including directly visualizing cell migration in complex tissues.

The team specifically focuses on “border cells” migration of the egg chamber. As is the case with metastatic cells, border cells migrate as a group. As a result, the team expects that these discoveries involving the fruit fly can be transposed to humans and conducts experiments to that end.

This strategy enabled them to discover molecular mechanisms that control the coordination of border cells. This discovery explains how the ranking between the cells leading the migration and those brought along is established.

By combining genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, in vivo imaging and high-resolution microscopy experiments, Gregory Emery’s group intends to identify new processes that are specific to collective migration.

Research topics

Research team