Cytoskeleton and Cell Plasticity


Main axes of research

Inflammation-driven biological processes such as wound-healing, fibrosis or carcinoma progression rely on the capacity of epithelial cells to acquire a mesenchymal phenotype (Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition; EMT) via genetic reprogramming. Involving also enhanced migration, this process strongly implicates the actin cytoskeleton, a dense meshwork of protein filaments undergoing rapid cycles of assembly and disassembly in cells. This dynamic structure defines the architecture of epithelial cells and participates in key cell processes like endocytosis, cytokinesis, cell migration and signalling. More recently, a nuclear function was identified for actin in the organisation of chromatin and gene expression. Since structural and functional alterations of the actin cytoskeleton are associated with EMT, this complex structure is a potential target for novel anti-cancer therapies.

We combine microscopy-based quantitative live cell imaging, biochemical and OMICS approaches with mathematical modelling 1) to gain an integrated view on the assembly of cytoskeleton structures in the context of the epithelial cell, 2) to understand how actin polymerization contributes to cell motility 3) In parallel, we investigate gene regulatory circuits including small non-coding microRNAs, which contribute to the regulation of epithelial cell plasticity. These approaches will allow unravelling the molecular bases of fundamental biological events which contribute to inflammation-based diseases.

Current research projects

Major projects:

1) Systematic study of early stage gene regulatory networks including miRNA-orchestrated events, during carcinoma progression (FNR BIOSAN, UL internal and FLCC projects):

  • Making use of complementary molecular cell biology, microarray-based and bioinformatics approaches, the project aims at identifying miRNA target genes with a key role in EMT and carcinoma progression
  • Identification of novel biomarkers for breast carcinoma classification (please see patent application)

2) Investigation of the spatio-temporal regulation of the assembly of actin structures involved in cell migration and morphogenesis (UL internal project):

  • A particular focus is given on LIM proteins, bi-functional sensors and integrators of the cellular environment
  • Further development of microscopy-based methodologies for the evaluation of molecular kinetics in live cells and for the mathematical exploration of microscopy data 

Resources and collaborations


Relevant equipment of the UL Life Sciences Research Unit includes:

Cell biology and animal experimentation:

  •  L1 and L2 level facilities for cell culture (including a hypoxia incubator and a hypoxia work station) Biorad and Amaxa cell electroporators, Beckman ultracentrifuge
  • FACSCanto II flow cytometer, epifluorescence microscopes, Zeiss LSM 510 Meta confocal microscope
  • Mouse facility

Molecular biology and biochemistry:

  • Incubators for bacterial culture, DNA gel doc systems, ultra-sound sonicators, real-time PCR machines, fluorimeter, Nanodrop DNA, RNA, protein quantification devices, spectrophotometers, gel/blot detection facility, Odyssey far-red fluorescence detection facility, luminometer, robotic liquid sampling station

PCs and computer servers with software to analyze biological processes

Products and services

  • Scientific consulting
  • Cellular and cell-free assays to study basic cell functions, including migration, proliferation and apoptosis with a central role in disease
  • Epithelial cell models for inflammatory-driven events such as wound healing and cancer cell invasion
  • Cell models to study biological effects of drugs
  • Bioinformatics approaches to integrate large experimental data sets and to construct gene regulatory networks

Major partnerships and collaborations

National: University of Luxembourg: Carlberg lab; Laboratories of the CRP Santé: Microarray Center, NORLUX, Plant Molecular Biology, Experimental Hemato-Oncology; CRP-Gabriel-Lippmann, CREBS

International: IGBMC-CNRS, Strasbourg, (FR); IGMM-CNRS, Montpellier (FR); EMBL, Heidelberg, (DE); University of Gent, VIB, (BE); State University of Belarus, Minsk (BY); Curie Institute, Paris, (FR); Pasteur Institute, Paris, (FR); PharmaMar, Madrid, (ES)

Human resources

  • 5 Researchers (Prof., ass. Prof., Post-docs, PhD)
  • 5 Doctoral students and students
  • 0 Engineers
  • 2 Technicians
  • 0 Other

Business sector(s)

  • Life Sciences, health and biotechnology

Intellectual property


Title : "Mirna and its targets respectively the proteins made based on the targets as a prognostic, diagnostic biomarker and therapeutic agent for cancer"

Registration : 31-12-2010 - N° PCT/EP2010/054041

Applicant(s) : Université du Luxembourg

Inventor(s) :

  • First inventor : Evelyne Friederich
  • Second inventor : Guillaume Vetter


Title : "Plastin antibodies and their use"

Registration : 31-12-2010 - N° PCT/EP2010/053387

Applicant(s) : VIB, University of Gent/University of Luxembourg

Inventor(s) :

  • First inventor : Jan Gettemans
  • Second inventor : Evelyne Friederich


Cytoskeleton and Cell Plasticity
Campus Limpertsberg, 162a, avenue de la Faïencerie, L-1511 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 46 66 44 65 81

R&D Contact

Dr. habil. FRIEDERICH Evelyne
Professor for Cell Biology/Head of Research Unit
Phone: +352 46 66 44

  • Updated 29-06-2015