Cell migration in development and disease

We use Drosophila border cells to study how groups of cells (“collectives”) move inside the three-dimensional environment of tissues. We are interested in how cells migrate during development, e.g. during organ formation and tissue remodeling, and in diseases such as cancer, where it contributes to tumor invasion and metastasis.

We use a combination of live cell imaging, genetics, and cell biological approaches to uncover how multicellular collective cell migration is controlled. We primarily use the fruit fly “border cell” model but also address the role of collective cell movement in human cancer, such as glioblastoma (in an ongoing collaboration with the lab of Justin Lathia at the Cleveland Clinic).

Some of our current interests:

  • How do cell collectives maintain their overall shape and ability to move within the confined environment of developing tissues?
  • How do single cells come together as collectives and communicate to produce coordinated group movement? And how do cells in collectives stay together while migrating?
  • How do cells break away from epithelia to become migratory?
  • What are the molecular pathways that help migrating cell collectives keep moving?
  • Application of Drosophila border cell model to tumor migration and invasion, especially glioblastoma

The McDonald lab is located at Kansas State University in the Division of Biology – Manhattan, KS