Prof. Avri Ben-Zeev
Cell-cell adhesion is a key biological process in multicellular organisms. We study the signals conveyed by cell-adhesion receptors that regulate gene expression. A tight coordination between cell adhesion and gene expression is found in normal tissues and this coordination is altered in invasive cancers.
We are investigating the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, because β-catenin has a dual role: as a major linker of cell adhesion receptors to the cytoskeleton, and as a key transducer of Wnt signaling to the nucleus where β-catenin activates target genes. Hyperactivation of this pathway is found in colon cancer. We are studying β-catenin target genes activated in colon cancer, especially those of the colonic stem cell signature and genes related to epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Our studies will shed light on both intestinal homeostasis and on development of metastatic colon cancer.