Tepass lab homepage
Cell Biology of Animal Development:
Fundamental Mechanisms and Disease Models
 
Finding out how cells adopt specific shapes and organize themselves into tissues and organs in multicellular organisms is one of the most exciting questions in modern biology with profound implications for human health.
Our work focuses on epithelial cells, the basic building blocks of all animals and humans that are major components of many organs such as skin, gut, liver, kidney or the retina. These cells form two-dimensional sheets that separate different compartments of the body. Cell polarity is a key feature of simple and more complex epithelial cells such as photoreceptor cells. The polar organization of these cells is fundamental to their anatomy and physiology and an area of intense research in current cell biology. Our aim is to better understand both the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the polarity of epithelial cells and the cell adhesion between epithelial cells that binds cells into tissues. Some of the main questions that we pursue are:
How do epithelial cell establish and maintain their polar organization during development?
How do epithelial tissues adopt specific shapes such as tubes?
How do epithelial cells adhere to each other and move along each other without compromising epithelial tissue integrity?
How do photoreceptor cells establish different, functionally and structurally distinct plasma membrane region?
Abnormalities of epithelial cells including defects in cell polarity and cell adhesion cause many diseases. Our research currently explores genetic models for cancer and blindness. In fact, more than 80% of all human cancer cases are caused by the abnormal behaviour of epithelial cells. Blindness results often from death of the retina that is caused by defects in the polarity and adhesion of the epithelial cells that compose the retina including the light sensing photoreceptor cells.
 
Contact:
Dr. Ulrich Tepass
Department of Cell and Systems Biology
University of Toronto
25 Harbord Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G5
(416) 978-5712
Our Research page discusses
the following topics:
Cell Polarity and Epithelial Cells
Cell Adhesion and Cadherins
Epithelial Morphogenesis
Photoreceptor Cells
Cancer and Blindness
Genes required for polarity
and adhesion such as crumbs,
yurt, cdc42, DE-cadherin,
alpha-catenin and eyes shut
Drosophila, the fruit fly,
is the organism we use in our research.
They are very cute and we have a few million of them.
It is also one of the most versatile and widely used model systems in modern biomedical research.
Research brief
Last update: June 12, 2008