Primary cilia are visually striking highly organized microtubule-based structures transiently assembled at the cell surface (seen in this image). At this location, the cell's antenna acts as a signaling center, governing basic cellular processes during development and in adult tissues.
Signaling pathways regulated by the primary cilium are dysregulated in epithelial tumors but primary cilium’s functions during cancer progression are poorly understood. I recently identified that a key developmental program called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (seen in this image) that is activated during cancer progression, which drives metastasis, promotes primary ciliogenesis in human mammary cells. This image shows a contrast in the ciliogenesis ability of mesenchymal cells (green ciliated cells) over epithelial cells (red) as illustrated in the mouse intestinal epithelium.
The goal of my research is to understand the role of the primary cilium in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition during cancer progression.