Invasive Migration of Immune Cells

Daria Siekhaus

The formation of the body, the functioning of the immune system and the spread of cancer all depend on the ability of cells to migrate. We strive to understand this crucial process and in particular the question of how cells move within the complicated environment of an organism and penetrate through barriers that lie in their way. We address these questions in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster by studying the developmental migration of immune cells which all move from the location of their birth to disparate regions of the embryo through precise paths. One of these trajectories requires the cells to move through epithelial junctions, in a process that we have shown utilizes molecular components also required in mammalian immune cells and metastatic cancer cells to penetrate the endothelial vasculature. We have identified many genes required for this invasive movement and have shown that several of them facilitate dynamic cellular interactions by regulating the intracellular localization of an activator of adhesion. Using a powerful combination of imaging, genetics, cell biology and biophysics we seek to understand the functions of these genes, the pathways they act in, and the strategies and principles that underlie invasive migration. We hope to translate what we learn from our Drosophila studies to autoimmunity and metastasis.


Daria Siekhaus
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg
Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-5001

CV and publication list


Sigrid Pratsch

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1124


  • Vera Belyaeva, PhD Student
  • Julia Biebl, Laboratory Technician
  • Attila György, Laboratory Technician
  • Katarina Valoskova, PhD Student
  • Jana  Strouhalová, Laboratory Technician
  • Aparna Ratheesh, Postdoc

Selected Publications

  • DeGennaro, M.*, Hurd, T.*, Siekhaus, D., Biteau, B., Jasper, H. and R. Lehmann. Peroxiredoxin stabilization of E-cadherin promotes primordial germ cell adhesion. (2011) Developmental Cell 20(2):233-243
  • Siekhaus, D., Haesemeyer, M., Moffitt, O. and Lehmann, R. (2010). RhoL controls invasion and Rap1 localization during immune cell transmigration in Drosophila. Nature Cell Biology 12(6):605-610
  • Kunwar, P.S., Siekhaus, D. E. and Lehmann, R. (2006). In vivo migration: a germ cell perspective. Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology 22:237-65
  • Siekhaus, D.E. and Drubin, D.G. (2003). Spontaneous receptor-independent heterotrimeric G protein signaling in an RGS mutant. Nature Cell Biology 5(3):231-5

*authors contributed equally


2012-present Assistant Professor, IST Austria
2003-2011 Research Scientist, New York University Medical Center, Skirball Institute, Dept. of Developmental Genetics
1999-2003 Post-doctoral Fellow, University of California Berkeley, Dept. of Molecular Cell Biology
1998 PhD, Stanford University, Dept. of Biochemistry

Selected Distinctions

2012 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant
2000-2003 NRSA Fellowship