One of the most essential functions of a cell is the ability to rearrange the cytoskeleton in order to change shape, transport proteins, intercellular communications and to push the cell body forward to be able to migrate. Cell migration is a central process in all-living organisms from the early embryogenesis to the maintenance of essential functions like wound healing or a functional immune system and, it is therefore important to be able to control cell movement and adhesion. 80% of the mortality in cancer is caused by metastasis of daughter cells from mother tumors into new niches/organs. The mechanism behind this is not very well understood. One of the most important players involved in mobility of the cell and in cell-cell contacts like the immunology synapse is a group of adhesion molecules called integrins. Despite decades of studying these events, our knowledge on how these adhesion proteins are reorganized and reused is very limited, especially in fast moving cells like leukocytes and tumor cells.
Our research group is interested in how to understand how integrins are regulated and reused, since de-novo synthesis would not be economic to any given cell. We are in particular interested in the integrin called LFA-1, which is the major integrin used by T lymphocytes. We want to better understand how LFA-1 is intracellularly transported and reused in a migrating cell as well in the immunological synapse and how this is perturb in diseases like cancer and autoimmunity.