Basement Membrane Dynamics During Anchor Cell Invasion
Basement membranes are a dense, sheet-like form of extracellular matrix that underlie epithelia and endothelia, and surround muscle, fat and Schwann cells. Basement membranes separate tissues and protect them from mechanical stresses. Although traditionally thought of as a static support structure, a growing body of evidence suggests that dynamic basement membrane deposition and modification instruct cell behavior and morphogenetic processes. In this thesis, I discuss how changes to basement membrane affect anchor cell (AC) invasion during C. elegans uterine vulval attachment. During AC invasion, the uterine AC breaches two juxtaposed basement membranes to contact the underlying vulval epithelium. Using live-cell imaging, genetics, molecular biology and electron microscopy I identify three modifications to the BM that affect AC invasion. In Chapter 2, I describe a system for linking juxtaposed basement membranes to stably align or connect adjacent tissues. This adhesion system promotes rapid AC invasion and also regulates a more long-term connection between the uterine tissue and the hypodermal seam cell in the adult worm. Chapter 3 elucidates how the BM component SPARC promotes cell invasion. As SPARC overexpression is correlated with cancer metastasis, this aims to understand how SPARC overexpression promote invasion in a pathological situation. In Chapter 4, I discuss preliminary data showing that the AC actively secretes laminin into the basement membrane targeted for invasion. I outline how future studies could elucidate the mechanism by which AC-derived laminin might promote cell invasion. Finally, Chapter 5 discusses conclusions and future directions for these studies.
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