A screen for morphological complexity identifies regulators of switch-like transitions between discrete cell shapes Academic Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Cell Shape
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Genetic Testing
  • Melanoma
  • RNA Interference


  • The way in which cells adopt different morphologies is not fully understood. Cell shape could be a continuous variable or restricted to a set of discrete forms. We developed quantitative methods to describe cell shape and show that Drosophila haemocytes in culture are a heterogeneous mixture of five discrete morphologies. In an RNAi screen of genes affecting the morphological complexity of heterogeneous cell populations, we found that most genes regulate the transition between discrete shapes rather than generating new morphologies. In particular, we identified a subset of genes, including the tumour suppressor PTEN, that decrease the heterogeneity of the population, leading to populations enriched in rounded or elongated forms. We show that these genes have a highly conserved function as regulators of cell shape in both mouse and human metastatic melanoma cells.

publication date

  • July 2013



  • Academic Article



  • eng

PubMed Central ID

  • PMC3712499

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/ncb2764

PubMed ID

  • 23748611

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 860

end page

  • 71


  • 15


  • 7