Kenan distinguished Professor, Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
1971 BA (Biochemistry) Cambridge University, UK
1975 PhD (Cell and Molecular Biology) Cambridge University, UK
1975-77 Postdoc, Cold Spring Harbor
American Society for Cell Biology
American Association for the Advancement of Science
North American Vascular Biology Organization
DISTINCTIONS AND AWARDS
1988 Hettleman Prize
2002 Freshman Medical Student Teaching Award, University of North Carolina School of Medicine
2003 Kenan Distinguished Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
2003 Hyman Battle Medical Student Teaching Award
The interaction of cells with the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) affects many aspects of cell behavior, including the migration of cells, their growth and differentiation. In this lab, we have for many years studied the interactions of cells with ECM, using the focal adhesion as a model system. Focal adhesions are sites of tightest adhesion made to the underlying ECM by cells in culture. They serve a structural role, linking the ECM on the outside to the actin cytoskeleton on the inside. In addition, they are sites of signal transduction, initiating signaling pathways in response to adhesion. The major transmembrane proteins in focal adhesions are integrins, receptors for many ECM components. We have identified many of the proteins at the cytoplasmic face of focal adhesions. We are interested in how they link to integrins and the cytoskeleton, and in the roles of particular proteins in signaling at these sites.
The assembly of focal adhesions is regulated by the low molecular weight GTPase RhoA. We demonstrated several years ago that RhoA promotes assembly of focal adhesions by stimulating contractility of the actin filaments associated with integrins. This leads to clustering of integrins into focal adhesions. We are also interested in other members of the Rho family of GTPases, such as Rac and Cdc42. These proteins affect the organization of the actin cytoskeleton and regulate cell migration. The activity of these proteins is controlled by guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) and GTPase activating proteins (GAPs), that are governed by signaling pathways downstream from various cell surface receptors. In a complex feedback loop, the activities of RhoA, Rac and Cdc42 are themselves regulated by integrin-mediated adhesion, and we are studying the mechanism by which this occurs.
Many of the focal adhesion proteins are also found in cell-cell junctions of the adherens type that are prominent in epithelia. However, the major transmembrane proteins in cell-cell junctions are cadherins rather than integrins. Cadherins interact with a set of cytoskeletal proteins known as catenins. Just as with focal adhesions, cadherin-mediated adhesions serve both structural and signaling functions. The assembly and maintenance of these adhesions is also regulated by Rho family proteins. Adherens junctions are disrupted in many cancers and this disruption contributes to the increased invasiveness and migration of tumor cells. In recent work, we have identified a catenin, p120catenin, which regulates the activity of Rho, Rac and Cdc42, when it is dissociated from cadherins. We have found that this catenin interacts with the Rho family GEF, Vav2. We have also found that cadherin-mediated adhesion depresses the activity of RhoA, but elevates Rac and Cdc42 activities.
One clinically important set of adhesive interactions that we are investigating is the trans-endothelial migration of leukocytes. This migration is a critical aspect of the inflammatory response. It involves a complex series of interactions between leukocytes and endothelial cells, and requires modulation of the cell-cell junctions made between adjacent endothelial cells. Multiple signaling pathways appear to be involved in this process, as do several members of the Rho family of regulatory proteins. In recent work, we have found that inhibiting RhoA blocks the ability of monocytes to migrate across an endothelial monolayer. We have shown that this is caused by an inability of the monocytes to detach their tails while migrating. As a consequence, the cells remained tethered in their rears, although the leading edge of the cell often continues to migrate for some distance, giving rise to cells with long drawn out tails.
In the role of Section Head, Keith Burridge oversees the Cell Adhesion & Migration Section in the Cell Biology Faculty, including advising on the division of the Section into topics and the selection of suitable Faculty Members who actively review the literature in each of the topic areas.
The Faculty comprises Heads of Faculty, Heads of Section, Faculty Members and Associate Faculty Members, as well as an International Advisory Board.
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