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Cell and Molecular Biology
To survive in its organelle-free host cell, the malaria parasite installs transport pathways for proteins, nutrients and lipids. All transport from and to the host cytoplasm takes place across the parasitophorous vacuole, the parasite’s interface with the red blood cell. I aim to understand the mechanisms that allow the interface to function to reveal drug targets,
We use interdisciplinary approaches including theory and experiments to understand how computation is embodied in biological matter. Examples include cognition in single cell protists and morphological computing in animals with no neurons and origins of complex behavior in multi-cellular systems. We will also share new tools to enable “virtual reality arena” for single cells - enabling never before seen behavior of single cells over multiple spatial and temporal scales.
Insect eggs are not passive structures deposited on leaves. They induce plant defenses that inhibit egg development or attract egg predators. Oviposition by the Large White butterfly Pieris brassicae leads to salicylic acid (SA) accumulation and local cell death in Arabidopsis. These responses are activated by a phospholipid elicitor perceived at the cell surface and share molecular similarities with PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI). However, expression of defense genes regulated by the jasmonic acid (JA) pathway are suppressed and larval performance is enhanced.
Measuring cell-generated forces and tissue mechanical properties in vivo and in situ has proven very difficult. For this reason, our understanding of how feedback loops between biochemical signaling and mechanics contribute to robust multicellular morphogenesis is still poor. To address this limitation, I helped develop a technique based on ferrofluid droplets which allows to measure multiple mechanical parameters at time- and length-scales relevant for embryonic development.
The nucleus is extensively studied for its role in gene expression. However, growing evidences indicate that the biophysical properties of this organelle participate in cellular functions such as cell migration and pathogen killing; two processes critical for immune response. In this talk, I will describe our discovery of how immune cells undergoing confined migration squeeze their nuclei through narrow pores by forming a dense perinuclear actin network.