A screen for morphological complexity identifies regulators of switch-like transitions between discrete cell shapes

Zheng Yin, Amine Sadok, Heba Sailem, Afshan McCarthy, Xiaofeng Xia, Fuhai Li, Mar Arias Garcia, Louise Evans, Alexis R. Barr, Norbert Perrimon, Christopher J. Marshall, Stephen T.C. Wong, Chris Bakal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations

Abstract

The way in which cells adopt different morphologies is not fully understood. Cell shape could be a continuous variable or restricted to a set of discrete forms. We developed quantitative methods to describe cell shape and show that Drosophila haemocytes in culture are a heterogeneous mixture of five discrete morphologies. In an RNAi screen of genes affecting the morphological complexity of heterogeneous cell populations, we found that most genes regulate the transition between discrete shapes rather than generating new morphologies. In particular, we identified a subset of genes, including the tumour suppressor PTEN, that decrease the heterogeneity of the population, leading to populations enriched in rounded or elongated forms. We show that these genes have a highly conserved function as regulators of cell shape in both mouse and human metastatic melanoma cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)860-871
Number of pages12
JournalNature Cell Biology
Volume15
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2013

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