Mechanobiology of Membrane: from Mechanosensitive Channels to Artificial Cells
Biological membranes are involved in a large number of cellular processes including cell migration, membrane trafficking, and cell signaling. Significant amount of work have elucidated the molecular machineries that regulate dynamic membrane-based processes. In parallel, there are growing interests in recent years in trying to understand how mechanical state of the cells are utilized as a regulatory input to control cellular processes. My lab is interested in studying the mechano-chemical responses of biological systems. In this talk, I will present two projects related to this theme. On the cellular level, we have reconstituted the function of a bacterial mechanosensitive channel MscL in mammalian cells. Using this system, we investigated the role of actin cytoskeleton in mediating local membrane tension that activates MscL, and how we are repurposing MscL for studying cell migration. On the synthetic level, we are building artificial systems that can sense mechanical input and transduce a biochemical response. To this end, we are attempting to build artificial platelets that mimic the functionalities of natural platelets. I will discuss several modular platforms that we have developed that together will integrate into functional artificial cells. Together, our work will provide basic understanding of cellular mechanotransduction and potential applications of force-activated synthetic biology.