Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 2 – 2002

W. James Nelson, Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Steve Chu, Physics
Steven Boxer, Chemistry

Cell-cell recognition and signaling are central processes in the organization of cells into tissues. Our research focues on E-cadherin, a cell-cell adhesion molecule that is absolutely required for tissue morphogenesis of embryos and proper functioning of epithelial cells in adults, as an important representative of the proteins involved in these functions. Integration of Biophysical and Cell Biological techniques offers a powerful way to define precisely molecular interactions between cadherins and evaluate physiological controls and outcomes. This collaboration brings together expertise in single molecule techniques (Chu), lipid bilayer systems (Boxer), and analysis of biological consequences (Nelson).

Through collaborations between our three laboratories, our goal is to reveal both the sub-molecular mechanisms by which multiple E-cadherin molecules interact and the influence of biophysical context on E-cadherin-based cell adhesion. Our research is framed in the context of resolving controversies and testing specific models.