The contribution of Roberto Montesano to the study of interactions between epithelial sheets and the surrounding extracellular matrix
Essay | Published: 14 August 2009
Department of Human Anatomy and Histology, University of Bari Medical School, Bari, Italy
The interactions between epithelial cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix are a central issue in morphogenesis studies. Roberto Montesano and colleagues at the University Medical Center of Geneva, Switzerland, have extensively investigated the mechanisms underlying two morphogenetic processes: the formation of new capillary blood vessels from pre-existing ones (angiogenesis) and the generation of branching epithelial tubules (tubulogenesis), which are crucial events in the development of most parenchymal organs. Dr. Montesano has contributed to clarifying some cellular and molecular mechanisms of angiogenesis and tubulogenesis using an original three-dimensional cell culture system which replicates key events of angiogenesis and tubulogenesis, thereby facilitating molecular analysis. A major advance of this technique over conventional monolayer cultures is that cells can be embedded within a lattice of reconstituted collagen fibrils which mimics the three-dimensional organization of connective tissue matrices.The results of these studies support the notion that cell interactions with the surrounding extracellular matrix are crucial determinants of cell responses to growth factors and that epithelial tissues morphogenesis is governed by the interplay of two different classes of signaling molecules, i.e. paracrine-acting growth factors and insoluble extracellular matrix components.