Environmental control of melanocyte differentiation and transformation through cell adhesion and mechanics

We previously revealed links between epithelial cell-cell adhesion, cell polarity and mechanochemical signaling. Within the DFG-CRC1027 we now explore how direct micro-environmental factors such as adhesion, biomechanical properties and spatial constraints control the differentiation of melanocytes and how alterations in these entities contribute to hypopigmentation and malignant disease. By combining functionalized surfaces and defined adhesion geometries with quantitative analysis of cell mechanics, loss-of-function models for polarity regulators and various reporter systems, we aim to delineate signaling pathways that link control of cell adhesion, shape and differentiation in this neural-crest derived cell lineage.

Funded by the DFG (CRC 1027, project A12 to S. Iden). Scientists involved: Carole Luthold, PhD