Cell Adhesion

Cell Adhesion

Many of the most important events in the life of a cell occur at the cell surface and involve a complex array of molecular interactions that take place on both sides of the plasma membrane. Adhesion is one example of a cell surface process that regulates the associations of cells with one another and with molecules of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Cell adhesion makes it possible for embryos to develop, tissues to form, and cells to migrate and maintain shape. It is also critical to a number of normal physiological processes from fertilization to immune surveillance, and plays a primary role in the progression of disease states that include cancer and metastasis. The Department of Cell Biology at the University of Virginia is home to several investigators who are at the forefront of research in the areas of cell adhesion and cell migration. Some of these faculty are studying the roles of the ECM in regulating adhesion, differentiation and motile cell behaviors. A common thread in many of these studies is the integrins, which are a large family of transmembrane receptors that “integrate” the ECM with various cytoskeletal and cell signaling complexes located in the cytoplasm. Other investigators are interested in mechanisms of cell-cell adhesion and signaling mediated by members of the cadherin superfamily and the ADAM family of membrane metalloproteases.

Our faculty represent a broad spectrum of expertise in these areas and include a number of pioneers who have made important contributions to the cell adhesion field. Their research programs are dedicated to elucidating both the mechanical functions of adhesion molecules and their critical roles in propagating cell signals that affect cell behavior and gene expression.

 

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