Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology and
Department of Genetics

Proper tissue organization and homeostasis is essential for throughout live. The signaling pathways that control these processes in a fly are also in charge of equivalent processes in humans and aberrations in patterning or growth control lead to severe birth defects and diseases such as cancer.

Our lab combines the powerful biochemical and genetic approaches offered by the Drosophila model system to elucidate fundamental biological mechanisms and we have ongoing collaborations with several other labs to translate our findings into vertebrate systems.

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Proper turnover of proteins and organelles is essential for normal cell function. Global decline in the efficiency of cellular quality control systems leads to liver and neurodegenerative diseases e.g. due to protein aggregation, in particular at old age. Damaged or altered cytosolic proteins are cleared by the proteasome and autophagy. Importantly, autophagy also provides nutrients including amino acids and lipids to cells under stress conditions such as starvation, and is thus essential for energy balance.

Development and perpetuation of an organism depends on genetic programs that control the differentiation of distinct cell types and that orchestrate their morphogenetic behavior. They thus require the coordination of cellular polarity, movement, and shape, which are controlled by intercellular signals that are interpreted in a tissue-specific manner to coordinate the actin and microtubular cytoskeletons. Epithelia polarize across the tissue along the apical-basal axis, and within their plane (Planar Cell Polarity, PCP). Apical-basal polarization provides barrier function via tight junctions (TJ) and enables directional transport across a cell layer.

Wnt/Wingless (Wg) growth factors commonly signal through either the canonical Wnt (Wg)/β-catenin pathway or through non-canonical Wnt pathways such as the Wnt/Fz-planar cellular polarity (PCP) pathway, regulating the polarization of cells within the pane of the epithelium. These two pathways are highly conserved between humans, mice, fish and flies. 

Science at the Heart of Medicine