Our research projects


Focal adhesion proteins localization at cilia

Cilia are microtubule-based organelles involved in cell signalling, locomotion and generation of extracellular fluid flow. Xenopus laevis is a powerful model for the study of motile cilia because of the large number of multiciliated cells that decorate its epithelium. Previous work from our lab led to the discovery of ciliary adhesions (CA) which include the focal-adhesion proteins FAK, Paxillin and Vinculin. CAs are multiprotein complexes which associate with the basal bodies of cilia and play a critical role in the interactions between basal bodies and the actin cytoskeleton during multicilated cell differentiation. Current work focuses on the precise localization of the CA complex in relation to ciliary accessory structures and identification of new CA protein members. Further work includes the development of in vitro assays to study mucociliary clearance and assess the effect of candidate drugs in order to treat cilia-associated diseases (ciliopathies).


Morphogenetic processes during neural tube closure

Neural tube closure is a fundamental process during vertebrate embryogenesis, which leads to the formation of the central nervous system. Defective neural tube closure leads to neural tube defects, which are one of the most common human birth defects. In our lab we aim to  delineate the contribution of distinct morphogenetic processes during neural tube closure. To achieve this, we employ an interdisciplinary research programme which includes live imaging of Xenopus Laevis embryos, 4D cell tracking, optogenetic manipulation of cell contractility and loss of function approaches.


Primary cilia and hedgehog signaling

Cilia are microtubule based organelles that project from the cell surface. There are two types of cilia, motile and primary cilia. Typically, a single primary cilium projects from the surface of almost all cells in the human body. Primary cilia are mainly involved in cilia-based signaling such as hedgehog signaling, which is essential for vertebrate development. We are interested in understanding how primary cilia support hedgehog signaling.


Mitosis and the Cortical Mechanosensory Complex (CMC)

Mitotic spindle orientation (SO) is a strictly regulated process which is important both during embryonic development and in the adult organism. The formation of the bipolar spindle ensures equal segregation of chromosomes to the daughter cells, whereas the orientation of the spindle determines cell fate and cell daughter positioning. Therefore, it is involved in proper tissue homeostasis, and generation and maintenance of tissue architecture. Work from our group has uncovered the presence of a mechanosensory complex involved in spindle orientation. Our group has shown that ligand independent force dependent integrin activation takes place at the lateral cortex of the mitotic cell in a polarized manner at the areas that receive the strongest force, and downstream promotes the recruitment of focal adhesion proteins at the cortex such as FAK, p130Cas and Src. Our goal is to determine the members of the CMC and understand how it is involved in spindle orientation.