BME Seminar Series: Jan Lammerding
Squish and Squeeze - Nuclear Biomechanics and Mechanotransduction
Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology Department of Biomedical Engineering Cornell University
The cell nucleus is the defining feature of eukaryotic cells. Recent discoveries provide compelling evidence that the physical properties of the nucleus are critical for a multitude of cellular functions. For example, neutrophils have evolved characteristic lobulated nuclei that increase their physical plasticity, enabling passage through narrow tissue spaces in their response to inflammation; nuclei in muscle cells on the other hand have to withstand rigorous mechanical stress during contraction, requiring mechanically robust nuclei. Not surprisingly then, defects in nuclear structure and organization, for example, by mutations or altered expression of the nuclear envelope proteins lamin A/C, can contribute to a large number of human diseases, ranging from muscular dystrophies and cardiomyopathies to premature aging and cancer. In the Lammerding laboratory, we are developing novel experimental techniques to study the structure of the nucleus and its physical properties in mutant and wild-type cells, to investigate the physical coupling between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton, and to examine how changes in these properties can modulate cellular functions. While many of the projects in our laboratory are aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying human diseases caused by mutations or altered expression of nuclear envelope proteins, our research also provides important insights into the normal functions of these proteins.