A study by Sofia J. Araujo, a Ramon y Cajal researcher with the Morphogenesis in Drosophila lab at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), elucidates the genetic regulation of cell migration. Published in the scientific journal Plos One, the research is part of the thesis work performed by Elisenda Buti, first author of the article.
Cell migration is highly coordinated and occurs in processes such as embryonic development, wound healing, the formation of new blood vessels, and tumour cell invasion. For the successful control of cell movement, this process has to be determined and maintained with great precision. In this study, the scientists used tracheal cells of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to unravel the signalling mechanism involved in the regulation of cell movements.
The research describes a new molecular component that controls the expression of a molecule named Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) in Drosophila embryos. The importance of FGF in cell migration was already known but little information was available on its genetic regulation. In the study, Araújo and her team have discovered that a protein called Hedgehog, known to be involved in morphogenesis, regulates FGF expression.
"This is the first time that a direct connection has been demonstrated between the Hedgehog pathway and an increase in FGF during cell migration," says Araújo.
"The results are really interesting for biomedicine," explains the researcher, "as the Hedgehog pathway is overexpressed in some of the most invasive tumours, such as the most common kind of skin cancer."
The team explains that this is a step forward for research into cell migration mechanisms and that future applications will emerge as further investigation and studies are conducted.