Presidential Scholars Theses (1990 – 2006)


Open Access Presidential Scholars Thesis

First Advisor

Darrell Wiens


Epithelium; Mesenchyme; Neural crest; Cancer cells--Motility;


Embryonic neural crest cells (NCCs) and metastasizing cancer cells both undergo an epithelium to mesenchyme transformation (EMT) during which they disengage from neighboring cells and basement membrane and actively migrate to new locations. NCCs, small groups of cells that emerge from the neural tube, move directionally through adjacent tissues to reach specific destinations where they differentiate into a diverse array of specific cells and tissues. Caski cells are an established line of metastatic cervical cancer cells that contain HPV. We compared NCCs to Caski cells during EMT with respect to the expression of key proteins related to cell migration-integrin, paxillin, and N-cadherin, and cell shape, size, and motility behavior. Cultured NCCs and Caski cells were immunostained with antiintegrin, -paxillin, and -N-cadherin. Staining patterns were similar for both types of cells. Cells emerging from epithelium and newly motile cells showed higher levels of paxillin and integrin but lower levels of N-cadherin compared to the cells that had not yet emerged. Image analysis showed that the Caski cells became more circular, while the neural crest cells moved with greater velocity and showed greater area and perimeter dynamic change. There was little difference in mean elongation index, breadth, length, or direction changing. Caski cells showed more edge-ruffling behavior and migrated as small continuous patches, pulling away from the monolayer. NCCs more frequently crawled as individuals and elongate clusters. At higher magnification, focal contacts immunostained with anti-integrin were longer and more prominent in Caski cells. The borders of both showed numerous filapodia. Overall the cells have some interesting contrasts and similarities during EMT that give valuable information about the EMT, a change that can influence both the possibility of neural tube defects and the spreading of cancerous cells.

Date of Award



Department of Biology

Presidential Scholar Designation

A paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation Presidential Scholar

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (18 pages)

Date Digital



©2003 - Molly Decker





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