Maik Bischoff

Background & Contact Information

Postdoctoral Fellow (2021 – Present)

Postdoctoral fellow in Bogdan Lab (Marburg, Germany): 2020–2021

Education: PhD in Cell Biology at Philipps University of Marburg (Advisors: Prof. Sven Bogdan, Renate Renkawitz-Pohl); Sc. in Biology at Justus Liebig University of Gießen (Advisor: Prof. Adriaan Dorresteijn) 2014 (Advisor: Dr. Anne Holz) 2016

Fellowships & Awards: Walter-Benjamin Fellowship of the German Research Foundation (2022–present); Scholarship of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (2014–2016)


Research Information

Cell migration is one of the fundamental processes in cell biology. It is vital in immune responses as well as development and constitutes one of the hallmarks of cancer. When cells migrate in a group or affect each other’s migration behaviour, cell biologists call the process collective cell migration. Already in the 1950s, Michael Abercromby and Joan Heaysman – pioneers in the field – observed migrating fibroblasts undergoing a process they called contact inhibition of locomotion. In the title of their publication, they used another suitable term for what they saw and described: “… the social behaviour of cells …”.

Much of our knowledge about collective cell migration comes from cell culture. There are only a small number of animal systems that allow studying collective cell movement in vivo. Among these are Drosophila border cell migration, Zebrafish posterior lateral line primordium migration and Xenopus neural crest cell migration. Each of these systems reflects another facet of “social cell behaviour”, encompassing different mechanisms of how cells communicate with each other and find their way. Therefore, it is important to find new exciting model systems to help us to understand the many ways, cells can move and make decisions collectively in the complex environments inside a living organism.

During my earlier work in Germany, I helped establish an entirely new ex-vivo model system for collective cell migration in Drosophila: the migration of testis nascent myotubes onto the testis during metamorphosis. Luckily, these cells continue to migrate even when the entire testis is dissected from pupae and cultured in medium. The testis in culture is a small, self-contained, and in vivo-like system, comparable to the Drosophila egg-chamber (border cell migration, follicle cell rotation). Similarly, it allows for single-cell 4D tracking, followed by a mathematical description of the migration trajectories (see Figure).

Testis nascent myotube collective behaviour shares similarities with contact inhibition of migration but lacks contact-dependent repulsive behaviour. Like some cancer cells, testis myotubes migrate by using filopodia instead of lamellipodia. Cells constantly re-establish N-Cadherin-based finger-like adhesions and thereby remain attached to each other throughout the migration. In laser ablation experiments I could show that isolated cells cannot migrate toward the testis apex until they re-establish contact with the sheet. Therefore, we concluded that the cell sheet does not seem to be regulated by an extrinsic factor (chemotaxis, haptotaxis), but by instead is regulated by direct cell interactions. The dynamics seem to resemble contact stimulation of migration, a behaviour described by Linda Thomas and Kenneth Yamada in 1992 in cultured quail neural crest cells. In multiple experiments based on genetic and pharmacological perturbation, I showed this behaviour to depend on Rac2/Cdc42 orchestrated local differences in ECM adhesion-based stability. At cell-cell edges, integrin-based adhesions seem to be disassembled faster which causes a free-edge-based directionality, leading to a collective migration covering the entire open space available and extending the sheet until the testis surface is covered.

In the future, I want to deepen my understanding of contact-dependent regulation of small GTPase activity in testis nascent myotube migration to understand their “social behaviour” on a molecular level. Which factors tune local assembly/disassembly of matrix adhesions,  presumably by regulating local Rho-family GTPase activity? Answers to this question might help cell biologists in the future to find common underlying rules of collective cell behaviour and self-regulation that might help to explain other developmental processes and cancer-cell behaviour.

Science communication

I’m a nature lover through and through. On weekends, I’m out and about, on the hunt for reptiles – especially snakes – and foraging for mushrooms. North Carolina is the perfect spot for both of these activities! My biggest hobby is nature photography, primarily capturing images of animals and occasionally plants. I’m still in awe of the incredible biodiversity in the southeast. My favorite places to explore are the Appalachians and the pocosins, blackwater habitats and swamps of the coastal plains.


You can find my photography on Instagram:




Bischoff, M. C., & Bogdan, S. (2023). Dissecting Collective Cell Behavior in Migrating Testis Myotubes in Drosophila. In Cell Migration in Three Dimensions (pp. 117-129). New York, NY: Springer US.

Bischoff, M. C., & Peifer, M. (2022). Cell biology: Keeping the epithelium together when your neighbor divides. Current Biology32(20), R1025-R1027.

Bischoff, M. C., & Bogdan, S. (2021). Collective cell migration driven by filopodia—New insights from the social behavior of myotubes. BioEssays43(11), 2100124.

Bischoff, M. C., Lieb, S., Renkawitz-Pohl, R., & Bogdan, S. (2021). Filopodia-based contact stimulation of cell migration drives tissue morphogenesis. Nature communications12(1), 791.

Töpfer, U., Bischoff, M. C., Bartkuhn, M., & Holz, A. (2019). Serpent/dGATAb regulates Laminin B1 and Laminin B2 expression during Drosophila embryogenesis. Scientific Reports9(1), 15910.

Rothenbusch-Fender, S., Fritzen, K., Bischoff, M. C., Buttgereit, D., Oenel, S. F., & Renkawitz-Pohl, R. (2017). Myotube migration to cover and shape the testis of Drosophila depends on Heartless, Cadherin/Catenin, and myosin II. Biology Open6(12), 1876-1888.


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