Cell migration is central in a wide range of physiological and pathological processes, including development, wound healing and cancer metastasis. In the animal, cell migration is governed by a variety of extracellular cues that control activity of specific signaling pathways and regulate cytoskeletal dynamics. These cues are diverse in nature and include biochemical gradients, mechanical forces, and gradients of extracellular matrix stiffness and topology. Although several major signaling pathways have been previously implicated as master regulators of cell migration guided by the biochemical cues, the mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical stimuli and transduce them into cellular responses, such as migration, are largely unknown.
We aim to uncover how migration of animal cells is controlled by mechanical signals form the extracellular environment. Our lab uses a multifaceted experimental approach, combining cell biology, molecular biology, and biophysics techniques with high-resolution quantitative optical microscopy to address the following specific questions: (i) unraveling molecular mechanisms that transduce physical signals experienced by cells into activity of signaling pathways, (ii) assess contribution of directed cell migration guided by physical cues to pathological conditions, (iii) understanding how mechanosensitive cellular responses are modulated by chemical guidance cues, such as spatial gradients of growth factors.