Associate Professor. Canadian Research Chair in Cell BiologyDpt. of Biology
1205 Dr. Penfield Ave
During development, the embryo becomes progressively patterned in increasingly refined regions that will ultimately give rise to the various cell types and tisuues. Embryonic patterning is controlled by cell-cell signals that trigger intracellular cascades, leading to changes in gene expression and cell fate. An important function of these patterning events is to confer specific cell behaviors to the various cell populations: to give rise to the complex structures of an adult organism, the embryo must be extensively reorganized through a series of highly coordinated morphogenetic processes: cell change their shape, their contacts with neighbors, and undergo large migrations, either as single cells, or very often as whole masses. The very same mechanisms involved in embryogenesis are also crucial in the adult, where their deregulation often leads to cancer: pathological activation of the signaling pathways in adult cells causes frequently transformation nto malignant cells. Furthermore, the behavior of cancer cells during the process called invasion has many similarities with embryonic morphogenetic movements. Our laboratory is addressing specific aspects of both embryonic patterning and morphogenesis using a cell biological approach. We are studying the molecular mechanism of transduction of a major signaling cascade, the Wnt-ß-catenin pathway. We also try to understand the cellular basis of morphogenetic movements, in particular the mechanisms that control cell migration and cell mixing, by analyzing in particular the role of cell-cell adhesion molecules and cytoskeleton. We study these processes during gastrulation of the frog embryo, one of the most dramatic morphogenetic events, where the whole embryo becomes reorganized by large movements of the cell layers.