A7: The role of intermediate filaments in composite cytoskeletal networks at high strains

Lead PI: Sarah Köster
Collaborating PIs: Timo Betz, Andreas Janshoff, Stefan Klumpp, Peter Lénárt, Peter Sollich, Anne Wald
Overarching research question: How does the non-linear behavior of IFs influence cytoskeletal network mechanics?

Among the cytoskeletal biopolymers, intermediate filaments exhibit highly non-linear behavior at strains above 10%. They are linked to F-actin and microtubules by binding proteins (e.g. plectins), ionic or steric interactions and by these interactions intermediate filaments may contribute to the mechanical response of the active cytoskeleton. Here, we choose an in vitro approach to study intermediate filaments in the context of composite cytoskeletal networks. We employ a number of different methods to exert high strains to the networks, including optical tweezers, microfluidics, and atomic force microscopy and investigate to which extent the non-linear mechanics of the intermediate filaments influence network mechanics.

Core field: experimental biophysics
PhD training objectives: biophysical characterization methods (imaging, optical tweezers, AFM, microfluidics); microfluidics; biochemical methods (protein purification, handling, labeling); data analysis (image processing, force-strain data); modeling (Monte Carlo simulations).