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Focus of Interest: Membrane Plasticity

The graduate school analyzes dynamic processes at the cell membrane as an interface for cell-cell communication. The term “membrane plasticity” is thereby used to reflect morphological changes in response to cell-cell communication. The focus is on membrane receptor and adhesion complexes, as well as cytoskeletal cues as motors of membrane plasticity. The graduate school uses an innovative, integrated approach as the molecular mechanisms of membrane plasticity are being analyzed not only from a pure cell biology point of view, but also consider embryonic development, reorganization during metamorphosis or morphogenesis and disease-related morphogenetic processes.

The research projects center around two topics: The role of (1) plasma membrane cues and (2) cytoskeletal cues as motors of membrane plasticity. Membrane cues encompass dynamic adhesion and ligand/receptor complexes. Projects of Topic 1 will analyze dynamic complex composition, localization, trafficking and signaling in epithelial morphogenesis, homeostasis and repair of the kidney, myoblast fusion and neural crest migration. Topic 2 focuses on membrane remodeling events that are driven by cytoskeleton dynamics. Projects of Topic 2 will analyze actin assembly in epithelial cell-in-cell invasion, migration of myotubes and neurons, and protrusion formation in cancer cells and neurons. Furthermore, microtubule dynamics will be interrogated in the context of epithelial plasticity.