We focus on distinct cellular structures that mediate cell adhesion and contractility. Cell-matrix and cell-cell junctions and the actomyosin cytoskeleton are responsible for the dynamic control of cell and tissue shape during development and homeostasis and their mis-regulation is associated with various diseases.

Collaborating with experts in single molecule imaging, mass-spectrometry, and bioinformatics, and specializing ourselves in genetics and live-cell imaging, we are taking a multi-scale approach – from single proteins to a whole organism – to address the following mechanobiological questions:

  1. How do specific cytoskeletal proteins contribute to the organization and function of cell adhesion and actomyosin structures?
  2. How are signals processed within the “adhesome” and “contractome” to execute the appropriate adhesive and contractile behavior for a given cellular state?
  3. How do adhesion sites and the cytoskeleton sense and respond to external mechanical forces?

So far, we elucidated the nanoscale architecture of cadherins at adherens junctions and the molecular mechanisms driving their assembly; we introduced the concepts “cadherin adhesome” and “contractome” and experimentally characterized their robustness and evolution; we discovered a novel molecular feedback mechanism between membrane stretching and Rho GTPase activity that regulates contractility timing in a tubular tissue; and we uncovered a role for non-junctional cadherin in regulating the actomyosin cortex.

Future work will expand these discoveries to unravel the molecular underpinning of cell and tissue morphodynamics, with the ultimate goal of understanding the mechanical aspects of human development and disease.

You are invited to read more details about ongoing research projects and about the people doing the work or take a look at some of the images and videos we created. If you have any questions or would like to join our research efforts feel free to contact us.

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