About the lab

Our laboratory aims to understand how cells in multicellular organisms communicate with morphogenetic signals to coordinate in space and time and organize themselves to generate complex tissue architectures.

Featured research (4)

Asymmetric signaling and organization in the stem-cell niche determine stem-cell fates. Here, we investigate the basis of asymmetric signaling and stem-cell organization using the Drosophila wing-disc that creates an adult muscle progenitor (AMP) niche. We show that AMPs extend polarized cytonemes to contact the disc epithelial junctions and adhere themselves to the disc/niche. Niche-adhering cytonemes localize FGF-receptor to selectively adhere to the FGF-producing disc and receive FGFs in a contact-dependent manner. Activation of FGF signaling in AMPs, in turn, reinforces disc-specific cytoneme polarity/adhesion, which maintains their disc-proximal positions. Loss of cytoneme-mediated adhesion promotes AMPs to lose niche occupancy and FGF signaling, occupy a disc-distal position, and acquire morphological hallmarks of differentiation. Niche-specific AMP organization and diversification patterns are determined by localized expression and presentation patterns of two different FGFs in the wing-disc and their polarized target-specific distribution through niche-adhering cytonemes. Thus, cytonemes are essential for asymmetric signaling and niche-specific AMP organization.
How signaling proteins generate a multitude of information to organize tissue patterns is critical to understanding morphogenesis. In Drosophila, FGF produced in wing-disc cells regulates the development of the disc-associated air-sac-primordium/ASP. We discovered that FGF is GPI-anchored to the producing cell surface and that this modification both inhibits free FGF secretion and activates target-specific bidirectional FGF-FGFR signaling through cytonemes. Source and ASP cells extend cytonemes that present FGF and FGFR on their surfaces and reciprocally recognize each other over distance by contacting each other through CAM-like FGF-FGFR binding. Contact-mediated FGF-FGFR binding induces bidirectional signaling, which, in turn, promotes ASP and source cells to polarize cytonemes toward each other and reinforce signaling contacts. Subsequent un-anchoring of FGFR-bound-FGF from the source membrane dissociates cytoneme contacts and delivers FGF target-specifically to ASP cytonemes for paracrine functions. Thus, GPI-anchored FGF organizes both source and recipient cells and self-regulates its cytoneme-mediated tissue-specific dispersion and signaling.
How morphogenetic signals are prepared for intercellular dispersal and signaling is fundamental to the understanding of tissue morphogenesis. We discovered an intracellular mechanism that prepares Drosophila melanogaster FGF Branchless (Bnl) for cytoneme-mediated intercellular dispersal during the development of the larval Air-Sac-Primordium (ASP). Wing-disc cells express Bnl as a proprotein that is cleaved by Furin1 in the Golgi. Truncated Bnl sorts asymmetrically to the basal surface, where it is received by cytonemes that extend from the recipient ASP cells. Uncleavable mutant Bnl has signaling activity but is mistargeted to the apical side, reducing its bioavailability. Since Bnl signaling levels feedback control cytoneme production in the ASP, the reduced availability of mutant Bnl on the source basal surface decreases ASP cytoneme numbers, leading to a reduced range of signal/signaling gradient and impaired ASP growth. Thus, enzymatic cleavage ensures polarized intracellular sorting and availability of Bnl to its signaling site, thereby determining its tissue-specific intercellular dispersal and signaling range.

Lab head

Sougata Roy
Department
  • Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics
About Sougata Roy
  • Sougata Roy is an Associate Professor at the Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park. Sougata's lab focuses on understanding cell-cell communication during tissue morphogenesis.

Members (4)

Alex Sohr
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Lijuan Du
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Akshay Patel
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Hind Hitti
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Ge Yan
Ge Yan
  • Not confirmed yet
Alex Sohr
Alex Sohr
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (3)

Amy Zhou
  • University of Maryland, College Park
Mishal Rao
  • University of Pittsburgh