The ability of endothelial cells to migrate directionally is critical to vascular angiogenesis, the formation of new vascular networks from existing vasculature. This process is required for placental growth during pregnancy and to repair damaged vasculature during wound healing, and its regulation is compromised in metastatic cancer and vascular disease. Angiogenesis is triggered by extracellular cues that signal endothelial cells to extend new cell branches with directional specificity. The elaboration of branches guides directional movement of endothelial cells by generating sites for adhesion of the cell to its extracellular matrix. This necessitates complex and dynamic interactions between the cell and its extracellular environment that must be coordinated in space and time by physical and biochemical signals. Signaling cues coordinate endothelial cell branching in large part through specific regulation of the dynamic nature of the cytoskeleton.
Investigations in the Myers lab are focused on the mechanisms by which endothelial cells alter their microtubule dynamics to elaborate cell branches and thereby establish directed motility, as well as the response of microtubule dynamics to physical interactions with the extracellular matrix. We utilize methodologies that combine high-resolution light microscopy and automated tracking of microtubule dynamics in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. To aid in understanding how the physical environment influences cell morphology we culture cells onto 3-dimensional collagen matrices, or onto micro-fabricated substrates of various shapes, and utilize these approaches to test hypotheses relevant to vascular development and diseases associated with endothelial cell angiogenesis.
Myers Laboratory @ the University of the Sciences