Interplay between membrane fluidity and cortical anchor proteins (MEP)

What and Why

Cells are a sum of biochemical reactions contained by a plasma membrane, a lipid-based scaffold which defines the cell as a separate entity from the outside world. This soft membrane is mechanically supported by the actin cortex, a thin cytoskeletal protein layer which is remodelled by molecular motors to generate tension during cell division. The dynamics of the cortex are strongly entangled with the fluidity of the membrane, a crucial parameter that determines the in-plane transport and accumulation of lipids and proteins on the membrane.

The Project

In this project you will explore the interplay between membrane fluidity and cytoskeletal self-assembly: following an in vitro approach, you will reconstitute a minimal version of the actin cortex on lipid membranes of tuneable fluidity. Using TIRF fluorescence microscopy, you will observe and characterize how the actin filaments assemble into a cortex on membranes with different fluidities. Depending on the progress and your interests, this project could be expanded to include 3D membrane-cytoskeleton systems.

In this project you will learn how to reconstitute both cytoskeletal and membrane systems in vitro. You will also hone your skills in advanced fluorescence microscopy and image analysis.

We are a highly collaborative group with several ongoing projects adjacent to yours, so we encourage you to develop your own focus within the project and push it forward in collaboration with other group members.


Lennard van Buren (, Lucia Baldauf (, or Gijsje Koenderink (

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