DFG Research Unit FOR 1756

Functional dynamics of cell contacts in
cellular assemblies and migratory cells






verantwortlich für
den Inhalt:

Prof Jörg Großhans

Next annual retreat Castle Ringberg, Jan 13-16, 2016.

Topic of the DFG research group

A central element in the regulation of tissue morphogenesis is the formation rearrangement and maintenance of physical cell-cell contacts, as mediated by adhesion molecules and cell surface ligand/receptor systems. The research unit (FOR) will focus on defining and analysing the functional dynamics of cell contacts in cellular assemblies and small sets of cells. The dynamic cell contacts determine specific cellular behaviour and constitute the driving force for tissue elongation, cell rearrangement, cell migration and neuron-glia interaction. More complex questions like organ formation, cell-cell interactions via diffusible factors, or cell-matrix interactions are currently no focus of the FOR, but may become relevant in a later phase of this initiative.

The studies will be performed in a set of genetically tractable model systems, including Drosophila, Xenopus and zebrafish embryos that are accessable to biophysical and microscopic methods. Cell behaviour has been difficult to analyse due to the dynamics of the molecular and morphological changes and due to the fact that multiple processes and cell types act in concert. Part of these problems have in recent years been solved by new assays and indicators for cell dynamics and morphology. In addition to genetic methods and live-microscopy employing fluorescent proteins (biophysical (i. e. atomic force microscopy, electrical cell-substrate impedance sensing-ECIS, cell tension and force measurements) and theoretical approaches will be incorparated to gain a better understanding of the common mechanistic principles of cell contact-dependent processes in the context of dynamic cellular behaviours and cellular assemblies.

The FOR will persue the following specific aims:

  1. Identification of the biomechanical mechanisms underlying the formation and function of cell contacts in cell assembly, tissue remodelling and cell migration

  2. Definition of the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for biomechanical properties of contact dependent behaviour and cell-type specific contacts

  3. Identification and characterisation of so far unknown components that mediate and modulate cell contacts