Weber Research Group
Cells are motile: they change shape, migrate, and interact with their environment. In our multicellular bodies, cell motility is prominently involved in embryonic development, immune response, wound healing, locomotion and other basic physiological processes, but also in serious pathologies such as cancer metastasis. Human cells have their basic motility traits in common with simple unicellular eukaryotes.
The intracellular machinery responsible for effecting the cell motility is the actin cytoskeleton, a meshwork of thin filamentous polymers. Actin filaments grow and shrink, connect to each other building a variety of supramolecular structures, bind to the plasma membrane and intracellular organelles, and serve as tracks and support for molecular motors.
The architecture and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton are tightly regulated in space and time by numerous actin-binding proteins and intricate networks of signaling molecules.
In our laboratory we use a model organism, Dictyostelium discoideum, to investigate how cells divide by binary cytokinesis, feed by phagocytosis and macropinocytosis, migrate towards the food source, and aggregate during periods of starvation.
Specifically, our research is focused on regulatory mechanisms and signaling pathways mediated by a group of GTP-hydrolyzing proteins, small GTPases, which govern the actin cytoskeleton dynamics. We are using the methods of cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, advanced light microscopy, image analysis and mathematical modeling. We collaborate with research groups from Croatia, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.