Programme(s) to which this project applies:
|☑ MPhil/PhD||☒ MRes[Med]||☒ URIS|
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a series of molecular events, in which epithelial cells are converted into migratory mesenchymal cells through loss of cell-cell adhesion and focal adhesion complex, and remodelling of acting dynamics. This process is crucial because it contributes to the formation of many tissues during embryonic development. Dysregulation of EMT could lead to fetal abnormalities and tumour metastasis. The neural crest (NC) is one of the most characterised and accessible experimental system for studying the genetic regulation of EMT. Neural crest cells (NCCs) originate from the dorsal neural tube and undergo EMT to acquire directional migratory behaviour toward the periphery, where they give rise to the craniofacial structures and periphery nervous system. Proper molecular regulation of EMT is essential for NC to acquire locomotion capabilities and for the subsequent differentiation process. The induction of the zinc-finger transcriptional repressor, SNAIL2, represents a key nexus in governing the onset of NC EMT. Homozygous deletions of SNAIL2 caused auditory-pigmentary symptoms in humans due to the inability of NCCs to migrate and differentiate into functional cell types for hearing and pigmentation. Mechanistically, SNAIL2 recruits repressive complexes to inhibit the expression of the adhesion molecule, Cad6B, to initiate NC EMT. However, SNAIL2 is a labile protein with a short half-life, moreover, the molecular mechanisms that regulate SNAIL2 stability during NC EMT are unknown. In this project, we aim to elucidate the molecular regulation of SNAIL2 stabilisation for proper EMT using chick embryos as the model organism, as dysregulation of this process can lead to defective NC development and human diseases.
Dr MCH Cheung, School of Biomedical Sciences
I obtained my bachelor's degree in the Department of Biochemistry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a first-class honour and then PhD in the University of Nottingham in UK Following postdoctoral training in the National Institute for Medical Research in UK, I returned to Hong Kong in 2007 to join the former Department of Biochemistry in HKU as a Research Assistant Professor and became Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy in Nov 2013. I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in School of Biomedical Sciences since Nov 2019. My long-term research interest is to dissect the molecular mechanisms underlying the complex cell migration events using neural crest cells in chick embryo as a model system and determine whether similar regulatory control conferring neural crest migratory capacity also governs cancer metastasis.
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