Laura Machesky - Migration, Invasion and Metastasis



Mobilisation of the actin cytoskeleton is important for cell migration, shape change, and interactions with other cells and the environment. Additionally, alterations in cytoskeletal signalling pathways are increasingly being recognised as important for cancer invasion and metastasis.

We aim to understand the control and mechanisms of actin assembly in various normal and cancer cells with the hope to understand fundamental aspects of cell movement.

These studies impact on our understanding of normal development, immune system function, haemostasis and cancer.


In collaboration with Martin Drysdale (Beatson Drug Discovery) and Jennifer Morton, our group has a project funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund entitled "Development of new therapies against metastasis of pancreatic cancer".

Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund logo

Lab Report

Key Publications

Li A, Ma Y, Yu X, Mort RL, Lindsay CR, Stevenson D, Strathdee D, Insall RH, Chernoff J, Snapper SB, Jackson IJ, Larue L, Sansom OJ, Machesky LM. Rac1 Drives Melanoblast Organization during Mouse Development by Orchestrating Pseudopod- Driven Motility and Cell-Cycle Progression. Dev Cell 21: 722- 34, 2011

Zech T, Calaminus SDJ, Caswell PT, Spence HJ, Carnell MJ, Insall RH, Norman JC, Machesky LM. The Arp2/3 activator WASH regulates alpha-5 beta-1 integrin mediated invasive migration. J Cell Sci 124(Pt 22): 3753-9, 2011

Li A, Dawson JC, Forero-Vargas M, Spence HJ, Yu X, Konig I, Anderson K, Machesky LM. The actin-bundling protein fascin stabilizes actin in invadopodia and potentiates protrusive invasion. Curr Biol 20: 339-45, 2010

May RC, Caron E, Hall A, Machesky LM. Involvement of the Arp2/3 complex in FcgR and CR3 mediated phagocytosis. Nature Cell Biol 2: 246-8, 2000

Machesky LM, Mullins RD, Higgs HN, Kaiser DA, Blanchoin L, May RC, Hall ME, Pollard TD. Wasp-related protein Scar activates dendritic nucleation of actin filaments by Arp2/3 complex. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96: 3739-44, 1999

Machesky LM, Insall RH. Scar and the related Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein, WASP, regulate the actin cytoskeleton through the Arp2/3 complex. Curr Biol 8: 1347-56, 1998


Education and qualifications

1993: PhD, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Supervisor Thomas D. Pollard
1987: BSc, Chemistry and Biology (GPA 3.98/4.00), Alma College, USA


2007-present: Professor of Cell Biology, CRUK Beatson Institute
2007-2010: MRC Senior Research Fellow, CRUK Beatson Institute
1999-2007: MRC Career Development Fellow, MRC Senior Research Fellow & Professor of Cell Biology, School of Biosciences University of Birmingham
1997-1998: MRC Career Development Fellow with Alan Hall, MRC-LMCB, London
1995-1997: Damon Runyon Walter Winchell Cancer Research Posdoctoral Fellow with Alan Hall, MRC-LMCB, London
1993-1995: Damon Runyon Walter Winchell Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellow with Rob Kay, MRC-LMB, Cambridge

Current committee membership

American Society for Cell Biology Council, 2012
Board of Directors, Company of Biologists
Science Advisory Board, UCL Institute for the Physics of Living Systems
Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Fellowships Interview Panel

Honours and awards

Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, 2016
Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2014
Elected a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, 2012
Keith R. Porter Fellowship, 2011
American Society for Cell Biology, Women in Cell Biology Junior Award, 2001

Recent Publications


Nikolaou S, Machesky LM. The stressful tumour environment drives plasticity of cell migration programmes, contributing to metastasis. In. The Journal of pathology;10.1002/path.5395. England2020:10.1002/path.5395.


Amato C, Thomason PA, Davidson AJ, Swaminathan K, Ismail S, Machesky LM, Insall RH. WASP Restricts Active Rac to Maintain Cells' Front-Rear Polarization. Current biology : CB. 2019;10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.036.

Bachg AC, Horsthemke M, Skryabin BV, Klasen T, Nagelmann N, Faber C, Woodham E, Machesky LM, Bachg S, Stange R, Jeong HW, Adams RH, Bahler M, Hanley PJ. Phenotypic analysis of Myo10 knockout (Myo10(tm2/tm2)) mice lacking full-length (motorized) but not brain-specific headless myosin X. Scientific reports 2019; 9: 597. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37160-y

Juin A, Spence HJ, Martin KJ, McGhee E, Neilson M, Cutiongco MFA, Gadegaard N, Mackay G, Fort L, Lilla S, Kalna G, Thomason P, Koh YWH, Norman JC, Insall RH, Machesky LM. N-WASP Control of LPAR1 Trafficking Establishes Response to Self-Generated LPA Gradients to Promote Pancreatic Cancer Cell Metastasis. Developmental cell. 2019;10.1016/j.devcel.2019.09.018.

Kugeratski FG, Atkinson SJ, Neilson LJ, Lilla S, Knight JRP, Serneels J, Juin A, Ismail S, Bryant DM, Markert EK, Machesky LM, Mazzone M, Sansom OJ, Zanivan S. Hypoxic cancer-associated fibroblasts increase NCBP2-AS2/HIAR to promote endothelial sprouting through enhanced VEGF signaling. Science signaling 2019; 12. pii: eaan8247. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aan8247

Machesky LM. Rab11FIP proteins link endocytic recycling vesicles for cytoskeletal transport and tethering. Biosci Rep. 2019; 39. pii: BSR20182219

Nikolaou S, Machesky LM. Invasion by Force: The C. elegans Anchor Cell Leads the Way. Developmental cell. 2019;48:287-288.

Schurr Y, Sperr A, Volz J, Beck S, Reil L, Kusch C, Eiring P, Bryson S, Sauer M, Nieswandt B, Machesky L, Bender M. Platelet lamellipodia formation is not required for thrombus formation and stability. Blood. 2019;10.1182/blood.2019002105.

Whitelaw JA, Lilla S, Paul NR, Fort L, Zanivan S, Machesky LM. CYRI/ Fam49 Proteins Represent a New Class of Rac1 Interactors. Communicative & integrative biology. 2019;12:112-118.


Fort L, Batista JM, Thomason PA, Spence HJ, Whitelaw JA, Tweedy L, Greaves J, Martin KJ, Anderson KI, Brown P, Lilla S, Neilson MP, Tafelmeyer P, Zanivan S, Ismail S, Bryant DM, Tomkinson NCO, Chamberlain LH, Mastick GS, Insall RH, Machesky LM. Fam49/CYRI interacts with Rac1 and locally suppresses protrusions. Nat Cell Biol. 2018 Oct; 20(10): 1159-71. doi: 10.1038/s41556-018-0198-9

Laurent-Gengoux P, Petit V, Aktary Z, Gallagher S, Tweedy L, Machesky L, Larue L. Simulation of melanoblast displacements reveals new features of developmental migration. Development 2018; 145 pii: dev160200. doi: 10.1242/dev.160200

Morris HT, Fort L, Spence HJ, Patel R, Vincent DF, Park JH, Snapper SB, Carey FA, Sansom OJ, Machesky LM. Loss of N-WASP drives early progression in an Apc model of intestinal tumourigenesis. J Pathol 2018; 245: 337-48 doi: 10.1002/path.5086

Papalazarou V, Salmeron-Sanchez M, Machesky LM. Tissue engineering the cancer microenvironment-challenges and opportunities. Biophys Rev 2018. doi: 10.1007/s12551-018-0466-8


Giampazolias E, Zunino B, Dhayade S, Bock F, Cloix C, Cao K, Roca A, Lopez J, Ichim G, Proics E, Rubio-Patino C, Fort L, Yatim N, Woodham E, Orozco S, Taraborrelli L, Peltzer N, Lecis D, Machesky L, Walczak H et al. Mitochondrial permeabilization engages NF-kappaB-dependent anti-tumour activity under caspase deficiency. Nat Cell Biol 2017; 19: 1116-29

Reid SE, Kay EJ, Neilson LJ, Henze AT, Serneels J, McGhee EJ, Dhayade S, Nixon C, Mackey JB, Santi A, Swaminathan K, Athineos D, Papalazarou V, Patella F, Roman-Fernandez A, ElMaghloob Y, Hernandez-Fernaud JR, Adams RH, Ismail S, Bryant DM et al. Tumor matrix stiffness promotes metastatic cancer cell interaction with the endothelium. EMBO J 2017; 36: 2373-89

Thomas SG, Poulter NS, Bem D, Finney B, Machesky LM, Watson SP. The actin binding proteins cortactin and HS1 are dispensable for platelet actin nodule and megakaryocyte podosome formation. Platelets 2017; 28: 372-9

Woodham EF, Paul NR, Tyrrell B, Spence HJ, Swaminathan K, Scribner MR, Giampazolias E, Hedley A, Clark W, Kage F, Marston DJ, Hahn KM, Tait SW, Larue L, Brakebusch CH, Insall RH, Machesky LM. Coordination by Cdc42 of Actin, Contractility, and Adhesion for Melanoblast Movement in Mouse Skin. Curr Biol 2017; 27: 624-37

Machesky L, Braga VMM. So far, yet so close: alpha-Catenin dimers help migrating cells get together. J Cell Biol 2017; 216: 3437-9


Garcia E, Ragazzini C, Yu XZ, Cuesta-Garcia E, de la Serna JB, Zech T, Sarrio D, Machesky LM, Anton IM. WIP and WICH/WIRE co-ordinately control invadopodium formation and maturation in human breast cancer cell invasion. Sci Rep 6: 23590, 2016

Sinclair A, Park L, Shah M, Drotar M, Calaminus S, Hopcroft LEM, Kinstrie R, Guitart AV, Dunn K, Abraham SA, Sansom O, Michie AM, Machesky L, Kranc KR, Graham GJ, Pellicano F, Holyoake TL. CXCR2 and CXCL4 regulate survival and self-renewal of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells. Blood 128: 371-83, 2016

Thomas SG, Poulter NS, Bem D, Finney B, Machesky LM, Watson SP. The actin binding proteins cortactin and HS1 are dispensable for platelet actin nodule and megakaryocyte podosome formation. Platelets 25: 1-8, 2016

Tyrrell BJ, Woodham EF, Spence HJ, Strathdee D, Insall RH, Machesky LM. Loss of strumpellin in the melanocytic lineage impairs the WASH Complex but does not affect coat colour. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res 29: 559-71, 2016


Lindsay CR, Li A, Faller W, Ozanne B, Welch H, Machesky LM, Sansom OJ. A Rac1-Independent Role for P-Rex1 in Melanoblasts. J Invest Dermatol 135: 314-8, 2015

Ma Y, Faller WJ, Sansom OJ, Brown ER, Doig TN, Melton DW, Machesky LM. Fascin expression is increased in metastatic lesions but does not correlate with progression nor outcome in melanoma. Melanoma Res 25: 169-72, 2015

Rainero E, Howe JD, Caswell PT, Jamieson NB, Anderson K, Critchley DR, Machesky L, Norman JC. Ligand-Occupied Integrin Internalization Links Nutrient Signaling to Invasive Migration. Cell Rep 2015. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.12.037. Epub 2015 Jan 15

Siebert S, Machesky LM, Insall RH. Overflow in science and its implications for trust. Elife 2015. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10825. 4. Epub 2015 Sep 14

Vijayakumar V, Monypenny J, Chen XJ, Machesky LM, Lilla S, Thrasher AJ, Anton IM, Calle Y, Jones GE. Tyrosine phosphorylation of WIP releases bound WASP and impairs podosome assembly in macrophages. J Cell Sci 128: 251-65, 2015

Ma Y, Machesky LM. Fascin1 in carcinomas: Its regulation and prognostic value. Int J Cancer 137: 2534-44, 2015

Morris HT, Machesky LM. Actin cytoskeletal control during epithelial to mesenchymal transition: focus on the pancreas and intestinal tract. Br J Cancer 112: 613-20, 2015


Garcia E, Machesky LM, Jones GE, Anton IM. WIP is necessary for matrix invasion by breast cancer cells. Eur J Cell Biol 93: 413-23, 2014

Li A, Morton JP, Ma Y, Karim SA, Zhou Y, Faller WJ, Woodham EF, Morris HT, Stevenson RP, Juin A, Jamieson NB, MacKay CJ, Carter CR, Leung HY, Yamashiro S, Blyth K, Sansom OJ, Machesky LM. Fascin is regulated by slug, promotes progression of pancreatic cancer in mice, and is associated with patient outcomes. Gastroenterology 146: 1386-96 e1-17, 2014

Ma Y, Machesky LM. Fascin1 in carcinomas: Its regulation and prognostic value. Int J Cancer 2014. Epub 2014/10/11.

Machesky L, Sedwick C. Laura Machesky: actin opens the way. J Cell Biol 206: 816-7, 2014

Muinonen-Martin AJ, Susanto O, Zhang Q, Smethurst E, Faller WJ, Veltman DM, Kalna G, Lindsay C, Bennett DC, Sansom OJ, Herd R, Jones R, Machesky LM, Wakelam MJ, Knecht DA, Insall RH. Melanoma Cells Break Down LPA to Establish Local Gradients That Drive Chemotactic Dispersal. PLoS Biol 12: e1001966, 2014

Tyrrell BJ, Neilson M, Insall RH, Machesky LM. Predicting cell shapes in melanomas. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res 27: 5-6, 2014

Woodham EF, Machesky LM. Polarised cell migration: intrinsic and extrinsic drivers. Curr Opin Cell Biol 30C: 25-32, 2014

Lab Members

Machesky lab 2020 105

Associate Scientist

Amelie Juin


James Drew
Jamie Whitelaw

Principal Scientific Officer

Heather Spence

PhD Students

Hakem Albilasi
Anh Hoang Le
Elaine Ma
Savvas Nikolaou
Vasileios Papalazarou (CRUK Glasgow Centre, joint with Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, Glasgow)
Sonia Rolo

Former Lab Members

Simon Calaminus, Lecturer, Hull University
Loic Fort
Ang Li, Post-doc, New York, USA
Hannah Schachtner, Post-doc, Berlin, Germany
Hao Ran Tang, Post-doc, CRUK Manchester Institute


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