Even when we are standing still, the cells in our bodies are going places. It is now clear that an individual cell can change how it moves in response to the material surrounding it. My lab is interested in understanding how the structure of the three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrix dictates the molecular and physical mechanisms driving cell motility. For example, we recently discovered human fibroblasts moving through a cross-linked 3D matrix pull their nucleus forward like a piston to increase intracellular pressure and drive protrusion of the leading edge.
Using a variety of biochemical, biophysical, and live cell imaging approaches, the Petrie lab aims to understand how intracellular pressure is controlled by actomyosin contractility in migrating cells in response to matrix structure. Further, we will seek to establish if the intracellular pressure generation machinery in metastatic cells is abnormal compared to primary fibroblasts and test the hypothesis that defective pressure regulation promotes cancer cell invasion into 3D extracellular matrix.
Ryan Petrie, PhD, received a BS in biochemistry from the University of Victoria in 1997, a MS in immune cell signaling from the University of Calgary in 2002, and a PhD in cell biology from McGill University in 2008. He recently completed a research fellowship with the Laboratory of Cell and Developmental Biology in the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research on the NIH campus. During his postdoctoral fellowship, Petrie used a combination of live cell imaging and intracellular pressure measurements in single cells to discover a new pressure-based mechanism of cell movement. He will continue to refine his nuclear-piston model of pressure-driven cell migration as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology.