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David Q. Matus Ph.D.


Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

412 Life Sciences Building
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-5215

1998 B.A. Biology Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
2006 Ph.D. Zoology University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
2007-2013 Postdoctoral Researcher, Biology Department, Duke University, Durham, NC


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  • Research Description
    Cell, developmental and evolutionary biological approaches to understanding cell invasion 

    We work at the crossroads of three major biological fields towards a goal of understanding the genetic programs that imbue certain specialized cells with the ability to cross a basement membrane. Cell invasion through the basement membrane occurs throughout the life history of many metazoans, during development, immune surveillance and is mis-regulated in certain pathogenic processes, most notably cancer metastasis.

    Broadly, we are interested in identifying the transcription factors and their target genes or the gene regulatory network(s) (GRNs) that program invasive behavior. We have also identified a link between cell cycle regulation and multiple aspects of the morphogenetic events associated with cell invasion and the resulting formation of a basement membrane gap in our study system, nematode uterine-vulval attachment.

    Uterine-vulval attachment during nematode larval development

    matus exampleTo examine cell invasion and basement membrane gap formation we use a simple in vivo model system that utilizes the strengths of the roundworm nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a model system: single cell visual analyses, a defined cell lineage and functional genomic approaches. During larval development a specialized somatic uterine cell, the anchor cell (AC), invades through the underlying basement membrane to contact the primary vulval precursor cells (VPCs), initiating the uterine-vulval connection that will allow adult animals to passage eggs to the external environment.

    To dissect the GRNs programming invasive behavior we use a combination of high-resolution live cell imaging techniques and genetic/ genomic approaches.

    We are also interested in understanding the evolutionary basis of AC invasion, and have begun studying the process of uterine-vulval attachment in other non-model nematodes.  The advent of genome engineering methods and ever-lowering sequencing technologies provides us amenable approaches to begin to dissect the GRNs the program AC invasion across an evolutionary framework spanning hundreds of millions of years of nematode evolution

  • Publications

     1          Marlow, H.,   Matus, D. Q.  & Martindale, M. Q. Ectopic activation of the canonical wnt signaling pathway affects ectodermal patterning along the primary axis during larval development in the anthozoan Nematostella vectensis.   Developmental biology   380, 324-334, (2013).

    2            Matus, D. Q., Li, X. Y., Durbin, S., Agarwal, D., Chi, Q., Weiss, S. J.  et al.  In vivo identification of regulators of cell invasion across basement membranes.   Sci Signal   3, ra35, (2010).

    comment in:   Nat Rev Cancer .  2010 Jul; 10(7):452.

    comment in:   Science.   2010 May 28;   328:1077.

    3          Ziel, J. W.,   Matus, D. Q.  & Sherwood, D. R. An expression screen for RhoGEF genes involved in C. elegans gonadogenesis.   Gene Expr Patterns, (2009).

    4          Marlow, H. Q., Srivastava, M.,   Matus, D. Q.,  Rokhsar, D. & Martindale, M. Q. Anatomy and development of the nervous system of Nematostella vectensis, an anthozoan cnidarian.   Dev Neurobiol   69, 235-254, (2009).

    5            Matus, D. Q.,  Magie, C. R., Pang, K., Martindale, M. Q. & Thomsen, G. H. The Hedgehog gene family of the cnidarian, Nematostella vectensis, and implications for understanding metazoan Hedgehog pathway evolution.   Developmental biology   313, 501-518, (2008).

    6          Frobius, A. C.,   Matus, D. Q.  & Seaver, E. C. Genomic organization and expression demonstrate spatial and temporal Hox gene colinearity in the lophotrochozoan Capitella sp. I.   PLoS One   3, e4004, (2008).

    7          Dunn, C. W., Hejnol, A.,   Matus, D. Q., Pang, K., Browne, W. E., Smith, S. A.  et al.  Broad phylogenomic sampling improves resolution of the animal tree of life.   Nature   452, 745-749, (2008).

    8          Ryan, J. F., Mazza, M. E., Pang, K.,   Matus, D. Q., Baxevanis, A. D., Martindale, M. Q.  et al.  Pre-bilaterian origins of the Hox cluster and the Hox code: evidence from the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis.   PLoS One   2, e153, (2007).

    9            Matus, D. Q.,  Thomsen, G. H. & Martindale, M. Q. FGF signaling in gastrulation and neural development in Nematostella vectensis, an anthozoan cnidarian.   Development genes and evolution   217, 137-148, (2007).

    10          Matus, D. Q.,  Pang, K., Daly, M. & Martindale, M. Q. Expression of Pax gene family members in the anthozoan cnidarian, Nematostella vectensis.   Evol Dev   9, 25-38, (2007).

    11        Adamska, M.,   Matus, D. Q., Adamski, M., Green, K., Rokhsar, D. S., Martindale, M. Q.  et al.  The evolutionary origin of hedgehog proteins.   Curr Biol   17, R836-837, (2007).

    12          Matus, D. Q., Thomsen, G. H. & Martindale, M. Q. Dorso/ventral genes are asymmetrically expressed and involved in germ-layer demarcation during cnidarian gastrulation.   Curr Biol   16, 499-505, (2006).

    13          Matus, D. Q., Pang, K., Marlow, H., Dunn, C. W., Thomsen, G. H. & Martindale, M. Q. Molecular evidence for deep evolutionary roots of bilaterality in animal development.   Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America   103, 11195-11200, (2006).

    14        Matus, D. Q., Copley, R. R., Dunn, C. W., Hejnol, A., Eccleston, H., Halanych, K. M.  et al.  Broad taxon and gene sampling indicate that chaetognaths are protostomes.   Curr Biol   16, R575-576, (2006).

    15        Lee, P., Pang, K.,   Matus, D.   Q.  & Martindale, M. A WNT of things to come: Evolution of Wnt signaling and polarity in cnidarians.   Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology   17, 157-167, (2006).

    16        Extavour, C. G., Pang, K.,   Matus, D. Q.  & Martindale, M. Q. vasa and nanos expression patterns in a sea anemone and the evolution of bilaterian germ cell specification mechanisms.   Evol Dev   7, 201-215, (2005).

    17        Pang, K.,   Matus, D. Q. & Martindale, M. Q. The ancestral role of COE genes may have been in chemoreception: evidence from the development of the sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis (Phylum Cnidaria; Class Anthozoa).   Development genes and evolution   214, 134-138, (2004).

    18        Herman, L.,   Matus, D.   S., Herman, E. K., Ivancic, M. & Pack, A. The bottlenosed dolphin’s (Tursiops truncatus) understanding of gestures as symbolic representations of its body parts.   Animal Learning & Behavior   29, 250-264, (2001).

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