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Dissecting Cell Membrane Mechanics with DNA Nanoprobes

Stefan Howorka research Image

For many biological processes, cells need to exert and resist mechanical forces. How cell mechanics is determined by different cellular components is, however, not understood.  One fundamental question is the contribution of bilayer membranes compared to the cytoskeleton. The goal of this interdisciplinary project is to understand cell membrane mechanics with new nanoscale probes. The highly tunable DNA nanostructures will deform bilayers similar to an AFM cantilever tip yet allow for only nanoscale membrane distortions. Simple fluorescence read-out will enable highly parallel analysis of multiple membrane sites per cell leading to the  first-ever visualization of spatiotemporal nanomechanics in cell membranes.

Disciplines and Techniques
Project supervisor/s
Professor Stefan Howorka
Stefan is interested in membrane nanopores and study, for example, protein pores of pathogenic bacteria to understand their role as gateway for transport across lipid bilayers.
University College London
Professor Ulrike Eggert
Ulrike is interested in chemical and cell biology approaches to study cytokinesis at the process, pathway, protein and metabolite levels.
King's College University
Comparing proteins and nucleic acids for next-generation biomolecular engineering
Pugh G, Burns J, Howorka S,
Nature Reviews Chemistry 2: 113
Dividing cells regulate their lipid composition and localization,
Atilla-Gokcumen GE, Muro E, Relat-Goberna J, Sasse S, Bedigian S, Coughlin ML, Garcia-Manyes S. Eggert US,
Cell 156: 428
Stress relaxation in epithelial monolayers is controlled by the actomyosin cortex.
Khalilgharibi N,…., Miodownik M, Charras G.
Nature Physics,
Membrane tension maintains cell polarity by confining signals to the leading edge during neutrophil migration
AR Houk, …, Weiner OD.
Cell, 148:175