Biochemistry and Biophysics of the Cytoskeleton
Cells have a complex actin and microtubule cytoskeleton network. This network is essential for many processes in cells: cell migration, division, differentiation…. We want to understand how the cytoskeleton is organized and regulated in space and time, resulting in a functional architecture. To understand the underlying principles, we study the cytoskeleton dynamics, mechanics and interactions using two systems: cell lines and purified proteins.
We are particular interested how dynamic properties of the cellular microtubule network regulate its organization. Microtubule are dynamics polymers, growing and shrinking at their ends by addition and dissociation of tubulin dimers. Also the microtubule shaft is dynamic where tubulin can dissociate and incorporate.
Questions we address in the lab concern:
- How is microtubule shaft dynamic regulated?
- Which proteins cause microtubule damage, and modulate repair at the shaft?
- How is the interplay between shat and tip dynamics leading to a functional microtubule network architecture?
- To which extend is phase separation a mechanism to control microtubule dynamics?
To understand the interplay between microtubule-associated proteins and tubulin properties we work in vitro and with cells.
To address our questions with reconstituted assays in vitro we work with: purified brain tubulin, recombinant tubulin and Semi-synthetic tubulin to reach a high purity and accuracy of post-translational modifications.
To capture the evolutionary diversity of mechanisms regulating the microtubule network we work with evolutionary divergence cell lines and organisms: mammalian cell cultures, green alga and diatoms.