SPP 1782 - Epithelial junctions as dynamic hubs
“Epithelial intercellular junctions as dynamic hubs to integrate forces, signals and cell behavior”
Epithelia line organ and body surfaces to provide structural support and serve as barriers against mechanical force, pathogens, toxins, and dehydration. These functions depend to a great extent on the ability of intercellular junctions to sense and integrate mechanical forces and chemical signals. They transmit these into the cell to direct rapid changes in cell architecture and/or transcriptional programming thus directing cellular behaviour. Dysfunction of epithelial cell junctions causes a large number of disorders, ranging from blistering skin disease to inflammatory disorders and cancer.
Despite their large size, abundance and significance in disease, epithelial intercellular junctions remain poorly understood, precluding the development of molecular diagnosis and therapies. Understanding how intercellular junctions sense force and chemical signals, how such information at these junctions is integrated to elicit cellular responses at a mechanistic level is central to comprehend control of tissue morphogenesis, homeostasis and regeneration. Further, elucidating how genetic defects in intercellular junction components by-pass junction-mediated control of epithelial tissue integrity, is a prerequisite to understand the basis of multiple disorders.
The primary goal of the Priority Programme is to understand how intercellular junctions sense and respond to mechanical and chemical signals from neighbouring cells and how they convert these signals into cytoarchitecture, cell behaviour and gene expression programs. The presently 20 SPP1782 members address this question with a wide range of approaches including cell/developmental biology, biophysics and biochemistry techniques. Addressing the above research topic from the level of single molecules to whole animals, including the mouse and the fruit fly, represents a particular strength of this initiative. To achieve its goals, members of the priority program aim to elucidate general and common principles of epithelial junction-related signalling. To foster this, interactions will take place at meetings, lab exchanges and PhD training units at national and international levels.