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(CeDRE team)
Team: "Reverse Engineering Cell Division" (CeDRE)

Research Interest in Biological Physics

Microfilaments dynamics and mechanics

Every cell contains components, lipids and proteins e.g., able to self-organize. Monomer proteins like tubulin or g-actin dynamically polymerize into dynamic stiff linear structures termed microfilaments. All these components contribute to organize cell interior. In eukaryotic cells, the three flavors of microfilaments, actin fibers, microtubules and intermediate filaments, fulfill essential functions together with their associated regulators and molecular motors.

A way through complexity

The central role of auto-organization in cell suggests that physics, and in particular statistical physics, are valuable additions to deal with the complexity of biological objects, and to understand detailed mechanisms in the cell. Physics offer a standard language (equations) to recapitulate the mechanism and offer a predictive ability.

Microtubules and Cell Division

In the team, we are particularly interested in understanding how microfilaments, especially microtubules and associated proteins, support the complex choreography of cell division. Two of their properties appear prominent in understanding cell division, on top of already studied biochemical regulation through signaling pathways: 1) Dynamics – microtubules polymerisation and depolymerisation and attaching/detaching of molecular motors – depends upon forces exerted on players and offers alternative/complementary regulation pathways; 2) Mechanics of microtubules, which we believe is regulated by associated proteins, has also a role.

Systems and Experimental Approach

Based on experiments performed in vivo and advanced quantification methods, we develop models and simulations to account for experiments and understand in depth the implication of the design that we have experimentally identified. We base our model on characterization of players/building blocks done either at molecular scale, either through single molecule either in vitro, or in vivo. We however put the focus on how the interplay of the players results in the cell scale properties and in particular fidelity and robustness.