Until recently, attempts to isolate the adhesion nexus and then investigate its function have been frustrated because the nexus is a membrane-cytoskeleton junction and not a discrete organelle. However, we have overcome this hurdle by developing methods to isolate the junction and by establishing a proteomic workflow to interrogate its function. This major technical advance has allowed us to apply the power of proteomic analyses to identify changes in the composition of the adhesion nexus.
Our current research is focused on the link between adhesion signalling and cell proliferation using pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) as a model. In PDAC, an extensive stromal reaction drives tumour progression and contributes to the lethality of the disease. An understanding of the causes of this response, and the consequent effects of a highly rigid stromal extracellular matrix on tumour cell phenotype, would therefore be a pivotal step in the quest to improve patient outcomes. Methods are now available to investigate force sensing in vivo, so it is timely to determine how stromal rigidity drives tumour proliferation.
Research – right hand column