<b>Professor Alpha Yap</b><br>
Head, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine Division<br>
Director, Breakthrough Science Program in Mechanobiology<p>
P: +61 7 3346 2013<br>
E: a.yap@imb.uq.edu.au<p>
<b>Keywords</b><br>
- cell-cell adhesion<br>
- cytoskeleton<br>
- epithelial morphogenesis<br>
- breast cancer<br>
- bowel cancer<br>
- wound healing<br>
- epithelial inflammation
Professor Alpha Yap
Head, Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine Division
Director, Breakthrough Science Program in Mechanobiology

P: +61 7 3346 2013
E: a.yap@imb.uq.edu.au

Keywords
- cell-cell adhesion
- cytoskeleton
- epithelial morphogenesis
- breast cancer
- bowel cancer
- wound healing
- epithelial inflammation

Cadherin cell-cell adhesion and tissue organisation in health and disease

Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. Interactions between different cells are important to shape our developing bodies and maintain the healthy organisation of our tissues. Importantly, those interactions are disturbed in many diseases, including cancer and inflammation.

My laboratory studies one set of cell-cell interactions, those that occur when cells attach to one another. We focus on the cadherin family of cell-cell adhesion receptors. These critically determine the ability of cells to recognise one another and organise into coherent tissues. The importance of these receptors is emphasised by the fact that loss of cadherin function promotes cancer progression in epithelial tissues such as the breast and colon, which are common forms of human cancers.

Cadherin dysfunction also contributes to the breakdown of epithelial barriers during inflammation, notably in chronic disease of the intestine. By understanding the basic biological mechanisms of cadherin-mediated cell recognition, we aim to provide vital insights into the basis of development and common human diseases.

We focus on how cadherins regulate the cell cytoskeleton to control the mechanical forces they exert on one another. Our most recent work revealed that cells control the patterns of tension with which they pull on their neighbours. By maintaining these patterns, cells are able to form epithelial tissues, the layers of cells that cover and protect organs, including skin. However, these patterns are altered when potentially cancerous cells are pushed out from epithelial tissues by surrounding cells, which can lead to cancer metastasis. This process of cellular extrusion involves many elements, including cell signals and components of the cytoskeleton, which are regulated by cadherins to control cellular forces. All of these elements present multiple opportunities for cell-cell interactions to be disturbed and promote disease.

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Research training opportunities

Please see IMB's postgraduate website for more information. 

Research in the news

16 January 2014 - Stopping the spread of cancerous cells, 2ser radio

Key publications

View more publications by Professor Yap via Pubmed or via UQ Researchers.

Smutny, M., H.L. Cox, J. Leerberg, E.M. Kovacs, M.A. Conti, C. Ferguson, N.A. Hamilton, R.G. Parton, R.S. Adelstein and A.S. Yap (2010). Myosin II isoforms identify distinct functional modules that support integrity of the epithelial zonula adherens. Nature Cell Biology 12: 696-702.

Kovacs, E.M., S. Verma, R.G. Ali, A. Ratheesh, N.A. Hamilton, A. Akhmanova and A.S. Yap (2011). N-WASP regulates the epithelial junctional cytoskeleton by a non-canonical post-nucleation mechanism. Nature Cell Biology 13: 934-943.

Ratheesh, A.*, G.A. Gomez*, R. Priya, S. Verma, E.M. Kovacs, K. Jiang, N.H. Brown, A. Akhmanova, S.J. Stehbens, and A.S. Yap (2012). Centralspindlin and α-catenin regulate Rho signaling at the epithelial zonula adherens. Nature Cell Biology 14: 818-828 (*Equal contributions)

Wu, S.K., G.A. Gomez, M. Michael, S. Verma, H.L. Cox, J.G. Lefevre, R.G. Parton, N.A. Hamilton, Z. Neufeld and A.S. Yap (2014). Cortical F-actin stabilization generates apical-lateral patterns of junctional contractility that integrate cells into epithelia. Nature Cell Biology 16: 167-178.

Leerberg, J.M., G.A. Gomez, Suzie Verma, E.J. Moussa, S.K. Wu, R. Priya, B.D. Hoffman, C. Grasshof, M.A. Schwartz and A.S. Yap (2014). Tension-sensitive actin assembly supports contractility at the epithelial zonula adherens. Current Biology 24: 1689-1699

Group contacts

Dr Bipul Acharya
Postdoctoral researcher
+61 7 334 62041
+61 7 334 62333
b.acharya@uq.edu.au
Mr Xuan Liang
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
x.liang@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Rashmi Priya
Postdoctoral researcher
+61 7 334 62041
+61 7 334 62333
r.priya@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Srikanth Budnar
Postdoctoral researcher
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
s.budnar@imb.uq.edu.au
Ms Joyce Meiring
Research staff
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
j.meiring@uq.edu.au
Mrs Suzie Verma
Research staff
+61 7 334 62169
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
s.verma@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Benjamin Caldwell
Research staff
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
b.caldwell@uq.edu.au
Dr Magdalene Michael
Postdoctoral researcher
+61 7 334 62041
+61 7 334 62333
m.michael@imb.uq.edu.au
Mr Kenneth Wee
Research higher degree student
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
k.wee@imb.uq.edu.au
Dr Guillermo Gomez
Postdoctoral researcher
+61 7 334 62041
+61 7 334 62333
g.gomez@imb.uq.edu.au
Ms Maedeh Naghibosadat
Research staff
+61 7 334 62333
+61 7 334 62337
m.naghibosadat@uq.edu.au
Professor Alpha Yap
Group leader
+61 7 334 62013
a.yap@imb.uq.edu.au

 

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