Unveiling the role of intermediate filaments in the cell's deformability (MEP)


The cytoskeleton of the cell is composed by different families (actin, intermediate filaments, and microtubules). The cytoskeleton allows the cell to deform and at the same time it gives the shape and strength to the cell so it will not break apart under different forces in processes like cell migration or cell division. A key factor to the cell being able to hold and not break under huge forces or stresses is the presence of intermediate filaments, like vimentin. Their hierarchical structure and high extensibility confer these cytoskeletal filaments with the ability to extend and bear with loads of stress. What remains unknown is: how do intermediate filaments help the cell’s cytoskeleton bear deformations and what are the interactions mediating the mechanical responses that arise from the deformations?

In this project you will perform rheology assays to assess the linear and nonlinear response of vimentin in different cytoskeletal composites to understand its role in each and how parameters like the mesh size can impact the network architecture and hence the mechanical response. You will learn how to work with in vitro reconstituted cytoskeletal proteins, perform rheology, analyse your data, and use different theories on biopolymer physic to interpret the data.


Irene Istúriz Petitjean (I.IsturizPetitjean@tudelft.nl) and Prof. Dr. Gijsje Koenderink (G.H.Koenderink@tudelft.nl