Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) Research Seminar – Yelena Bernadskaya, Ph.D.

March 8, 2023

11:00am – 12:00pm


Hershey Hall 158

“Understanding Emergent Collective Cell Behavior in Animal Behavior Development: Insights from the Cardiogenic Lineage of Ciona robusta

Yelena Bernadskaya, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Department of Biology
New York University

Faculty Host: Dr. Karen Lyons

Hershey Hall 158

For more information, please contact Stacey Antoniuk at



Development of animal form is driven by morphogenetic cell movements regulated in space and time. This requires extensive and precise integration of extracellular cues and subcellular pathways, which, when properly interpreted, give rise to coordinatedmulti-cellular behaviors that shape animal morphology. An open question inthe field of development is whether we can derive simple rules based on the observable morphology and behavior of individual cells that combined giverise to emergent collective behaviors. To identify these rules, I use themigratory cell pair that comprises the cardiogenic lineage of the marine chordate Ciona robusta. Combining morphological data with computational modelling I show how cellular shape allows us to derive subcellular force and adhesion distribution in a polarized cell collective. Further, our model has led me to identify the Discoidin domain receptor (Ddr) and its collagen ligand, Col9-a1, as central signaling hubs that allow migrating cells to sense their extracellular environment. These components are required to maintain cell polarity during collective migration through regulation of cell-ECM adhesion and leader/trailer polarity states. Thus, I propose that morphogenetic cell behaviors are organized through information inherent in the extracellular matrix of the embryonic environment through both mechanical and biochemical signal integration.