Command and control: Regulatory pathways controlling invasive behavior of the border cells

Denise J. Montell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The invasiveness of cancer cells resembles the normal behavior of cells that migrate into surrounding tissues during development. For example, the border cells in the Drosophila ovary undergo a partial epithelial to mesenchymal transition and invade the neighboring cluster of germline cells, migrating to the oocyte border. Once there, they provide patterning information to the oocyte and produce an eggshell specialization known as the micropyle. Border cell migration has been subjected to extensive genetic analyses using a variety of screening approaches. Recent findings demonstrate that conversion of the border cells from a stationary group of epithelial cells to invasive cells requires integration of the activities of at least two transcriptional regulatory pathways. One such pathway requires the slbo gene, which encodes Drosophila C/EBP, a basic region/leucine zipper transcriptional activator that is required for elevated expression of a number of downstream targets, including DE-cadherin and focal adhesion kinase (FAK). An independent pathway requires the activity of the ecdysone receptor and a recently identified co-activator for the ecdysone receptor known as Taiman (abbreviated TAI, pronounced ti-maan', meaning too slow). Ecdysone is produced in the Drosophila ovary in response to adequate nutrition and is required for progression of oogenesis through stage 9, when border cell migration occurs. Border cells mutant for tai accumulate abnormally high levels of adhesion complexes at their surfaces, which may account for their inability to migrate. Thus border cell migration requires a differentiation program mediated by the C/EBP pathway, which is required for elevated expression of a number of proteins required for motility. In addition, migration requires a hormonal signal that relays information regarding nutritional status and appears to be required for regulation of the proper localization of some of the C/EBP targets. These findings suggest that steroid hormones can regulate cell motility relatively directly, independent of the effects on proliferation. This may contribute to the metastatic effects of steroid hormones on certain cancers and the inhibition of metastasis by steroid hormone antagonists such as tamoxifen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalMechanisms of Development
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Border cell migration
  • Drosophila
  • Invasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology


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