Confocal images of a blebbing cell
Extraction of a membrane nanotube from a Giant Unilamellar Vesicle using optical tweezers
Various ways of mechanical cell manipulation
Super-resolution image of an actin network, colour indicates filament orientation
Sketch of GPI-nanoclustering by actomyosin activity

Darius How do cells cope with their environment? Deciphering mechanical processes at the cell surface leading to signalling events and the adaptation of cells to changes in the environment.

My research interests lie in the understanding the molecular and physical principles that govern processes at the plasma membrane of cells. Particularly, by which mechanisms the force generating machinery of the cell cortex, structural filaments and motor proteins, govern and regulate the mechanical properties of the cell membrane and dynamics of cell membrane components, and vice versa, how membrane organisation and signalling events feed-back to the regulation of the cortex machinery. These mechanisms, which in turn regulate cell motility and cell-cell interactions, underlie important, poorly-understood human diseases that constitute global health problems. To study these processes systematically, the interlinked contributions of membrane mechanics, cytoskeletal activity and membrane organisation need to be dissected and their relationships understood. To achieve this, I employ novel assays based on reconstituted membrane systems and combine them with measurements on live cells. As a research fellow in the group of Mohan Balasubramanian I reconstitute elements of the machinery that drives cell division, i.e. the cytokinetic ring machinery, using supported lipid bilayers, purified proteins and fluorescence microscopy (TIRF).

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Ditlev et al. (2018) A Composition-Dependent Molecular Clutch Between T Cell Signaling Clusters and Actin.
biorXiv, doi: 10.1101/316414.

Köster et al. (2017) Visualizing intricate acto-myosin dynamics at a membrane surface using interferometric scattering microscopy.
biorXiv, doi: 10.1101/199778.

Köster et al. (2016) Actomyosin dynamics drive local membrane component organization in an in vitro active composite layer.
PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1514030113.

Campillo et al. (2013) Unexpected Membrane Dynamics Unveiled by Membrane Nanotube Extrusion.
Biophys J., doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.01.051.

Sinha, Köster et al. (2011) Cells Respond to Mechanical Stress by Rapid Disassembly of Caveolae.
Cell, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.12.031.