My long-term goal is to establish myself as an independent scientist at a top-tier research institution studying the gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that regulate cell morphogenetic movements during development and cancer. Towards this end, the proposed research advances my training in functional genomics and systems biology approaches that complement my previous research in cellular and developmental biology techniques. GRNs encompass both the physical and regulatory relationships amongst transcription factors (TFs) and between TFs and their target genes that drive specific cell biological processes. Despite their importance in regulating cell invasive behavior, the TFs and the identity of their downstream targets that specify invasiveness is largely unknown. Cell invasion through basement membrane (BM) serves as a mechanism underlying cell dispersal and organ formation during normal development, immune surveillance, and is mis-regulated during cancer metastasis. The Sherwood laboratory at Duke University has established a simple in vivo model that uniquely combines powerful genetic, functional genomic, and single cell visual analyses of anchor cell (AC) invasion through BM into the vulval epithelium during C. elegans larval development. Our current understanding of AC invasion includes the identification of three TFs and a handful of putative downstream targets that regulate both the establishment of a specialized invasive membrane and the ability of the AC to remove BM during invasion. The proposed experiments during the mentored phase of the award will begin to characterize the GRNs underlying cell invasion through BM by 1) identifying the binding partner of the bZIP oncogene TF, fos-1a, and the identity of FOS-1A binding sites within the C. elegans genome;and 2) identifying additional TFs that regulate AC invasion and testing whether they show conserved functions in regulating carcinoma cell invasion in vitro. Training in functional genomic techniques and systems biology approaches will be accelerated through advanced course work, attendance at national conferences, a collaboration with Dr. Marian Walhout's laboratory (University of Massachusetts Medical School), and co-mentorship by Dr. Philip Benfey, the director of Duke University's Systems Biology group and the Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy (IGSP). Training in human cancer in vitro assays will be carried out in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Weiss (University of Michigan). These training experiences and the data acquired during the mentored phase will provide the basis to launch an independent research career. The research proposed in the unmentored phase of the award includes 1) characterizing the genomic regulatory regions that contain TF-binding sites that control gene expression in the AC during invasion and 2) determining the core complement of TFs that are both necessary and sufficient to recapitulate an invasion program in normal development and in human cancer invasion.

Public Health Relevance

to public health: Cell invasion is not only a fundamental cell biological process during times of normal development (e.g., blood vessel growth and pregnancy), but is the underlying mechanism driving the spread of metastatic cancer in humans. Determining the core genes involved in promoting cell invasion in both C. elegans and human cancer will allow for the identification of new therapeutic targets to halth the lethality associated with cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Transition Award (R00)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
No Study Section (in-house review) (NSS)
Program Officer
Woodhouse, Elizabeth
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
State University New York Stony Brook
Schools of Medicine
Stony Brook
United States
Zip Code
Liu, Tsung-Li; Upadhyayula, Srigokul; Milkie, Daniel E et al. (2018) Observing the cell in its native state: Imaging subcellular dynamics in multicellular organisms. Science 360:
Kohrman, Abraham Q; Matus, David Q (2017) Divide or Conquer: Cell Cycle Regulation of Invasive Behavior. Trends Cell Biol 27:12-25
Goto, Hana; Kimmey, Samuel C; Row, Richard H et al. (2017) FGF and canonical Wnt signaling cooperate to induce paraxial mesoderm from tailbud neuromesodermal progenitors through regulation of a two-step epithelial to mesenchymal transition. Development 144:1412-1424
Medwig, Taylor N; Matus, David Q (2017) Breaking down barriers: the evolution of cell invasion. Curr Opin Genet Dev 47:33-40
Fu, Qinyi; Martin, Benjamin L; Matus, David Q et al. (2016) Imaging multicellular specimens with real-time optimized tiling light-sheet selective plane illumination microscopy. Nat Commun 7:11088
Matus, David Q; Lohmer, Lauren L; Kelley, Laura C et al. (2015) Invasive Cell Fate Requires G1 Cell-Cycle Arrest and Histone Deacetylase-Mediated Changes in Gene Expression. Dev Cell 35:162-74
Matus, David Q; Chang, Emily; Makohon-Moore, Sasha C et al. (2014) Cell division and targeted cell cycle arrest opens and stabilizes basement membrane gaps. Nat Commun 5:4184