Current Status: M4
Graduate Department: Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology
Other Degrees: A.B., Washington University in Saint Louis;
Advisor(s): Andrew Kolwalczyk PhD;
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Understanding the dynamic regulation of cell adhesion in development and disease
Cells are held together in tissues by intercellular junctions, but these junctions are not static structures. Rather, they strengthen and loosen in a variety of situations. In endothelial cells, the cells which line blood vessels, dynamic changes in cell adhesion are crucial for the proper patterning of new vessels during development and wound healing. However, inappropriate loss of endothelial cell adhesion contributes to excessive inflammation and tissue damage, as well as cancer metastasis. We are interested in understanding how endothelial cell adhesion is controlled by endocytosis, the transport from the cell surface to vesicles inside of the cell, of VE-cadherin, the main adhesion molecule in these cells. Using tissue culture, mouse models, and in vitro approaches, we are studying the signals which drive VE-cadherin endocytosis and the regulatory pathways that control it. Understanding VE-cadherin endocytosis will help us identify potential new treatments for inflammatory diseases as well as advance our understanding of broadly applicable biological processes underlying the formation of tissues and organs from individual cells.