Structural Biology of Cell Migration
We study the molecular organization of mechanisms that control cell migration and viral infection. We do so by developing approaches that combine in situ structural biology via cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) with functional cell biology assays.
Specifically, we are interested in the structure of actin-regulatory proteins and the spatiotemporal organization of the actin cytoskeleton in migrating cells, and in cases where pathogens exploit actin-related host mechanisms. For example, it is not yet clear precisely how the 3D-arrangement of individual filaments in actin networks, and hence its influence on cell migration characteristics, is dependent on the activity and redundancy of actin-associated proteins. We also try to obtain a structural understanding of the reciprocal interactions of cells with their environment, i.e. when residing in a complex, 3-dimensional setting.
In order to structurally elucidate the molecular details underlying these processes we employ and actively develop state-of-the-art correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM), cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) methods and image processing techniques. This includes devising workflows for the facilitated quantitative analysis of filament networks in cryo-ET data and our efforts towards facilitating EM specimen preparation, by introducing 3D-printed EM specimen grid holders.
We then combine our cryo-ET methods in an interdisciplinary approach with cell biology, biophysics and biochemistry.