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Cell migration

Compared to sessile cells, migrating cells are characterized by a polarized organization of various cell structures. Hereby, especially the actin cytoskeleton, adhesion structures as well as various regulatory molecules are distributed in a non-uniform, strongly regulated manner within the cell. Furthermore, due to cellular migration various structures need to be constantly assembled, stabilized and finally also disassembled again. These structures, therefore, exhibit a much higher dynamics than found in sessile cells. As result of cell polarization, also generated cellular forces are unevenly distributed. This leads to a deformation of the viscoelastic cell body in a certain direction and finally to cellular migration.
Every cell type in mammals vitally depends on migratory processes at least during embryogenesis. For several other cell types, cell migration represents an essential feature in order to fulfill their overall biological function. Best examples are various immune cells (e.g. monocytes) or epithelial cells (keratinocytes) during wound closure.

KeratinozytenActivated keratinocytes constantly generate new cytoskeletal structures and adhesion complexes in a highly dynamic manner to migrate (here to the right). Assembly of new adhesion sites starts within filopodia (arrow heads, right picture where they also become stably connected to the actin cytoskeleton. Adhesion sites are labeled in green. For the right picture, actin is additionally given in red.

We investigate how cytoskeletal and adhesion structures develop during cell migration and how these structures constantly adapt to continuously changing conditions upon migration. Protein complexes necessary for the formation of new adhesions are analyzed likewise with respect to their maturation including underlying regulatory signal transduction pathways and mechanisms. We complement our analyses on migrating cells by characterizing underlying cell forces with high temporal and spatial resolution. Furthermore, we include protein dynamic measurements and explore how dynamic translocations and modifications of proteins are necessary for generation, enlargement, maturation, stabilization and disassembly of adhesion structures. As final goal we want to unravel the intense interplay between cellular mechanics and cell migration.

For further questions please contact: Dr. Bernd Hoffmann


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