The main organelles involved in sensing are cell-matrix adhesions (also called focal adhesions). They consist of adhesion receptors, the integrins, which are linked through focal adhesion plaque proteins to the actin cytoskeleton, whose dynamic organisation determines cell behaviour.
Our research focuses on the understanding of sensing mechanisms, i.e. how signals shuttle between integrins and the cytoskeleton and which determinants control the assembly and disassembly of adhesion sites. To this end we are combining advanced imaging with molecular biology and biochemistry. The use of a variety of engineered substrates enables us to reveal environmental sensing mechanisms of cells under precisely defined conditions.
Current projects aim to understand:
(1) mechanisms leading to conformational changes of integrins associated with their activation;
(2) the role of focal adhesion proteins in sensing biochemical and mechanical stimuli.
(3) the role of actin-microtubule crosstalk in cell motility.