Interdisciplinary research between biology and physics aims to understand the cell and how it organizes internally. The mechanisms inside the cell are very complicated. LMU biophysicist Professor Erwin Frey, who is also a member of the Cluster of Excellence "Nanosystems Initiative Munich" (NIM) is working with his group on one particular issue involved in the cell's life. The professor for statistical and biological physics and his team, Louis Reese and Anna Melbinger, investigate the interplay of so-called molecular motors with the skeleton of the cell, the cytoskeleton.
The cytoskeleton consists of many fiber-like structures called microtubules. Molecular motors move along these filaments and transport large macromolecules. Furthermore, these motors are necessary for cell signaling and microtubule regulation at the tip of these filaments.
Frey and his coworkers investigate molecular motors which are of particular interest for the regulation of the length of microtubules during cell division. Without these motors, cells are not able to divide properly. How does the lack of one single molecule, the molecular motor, have such tremendous impact on cellular behavior? The biophysicists confronted this question and studied the detailed functioning of the molecule and its potential regulatory mechanisms during cell division. They focused on the interplay of microtubules and motors that shorten (depolymerize) the filaments. Frey and his colleagues used a theoretical model which correctly accounts for the "traffic jam" phenomenon.
Using this model, the biophysicists were able to show that a traffic jam of motor molecules on the microtubule alters the shortening behavior of the filament significantly. The number of motors present in the surrounding solution (i.e. the cytosol) is of paramount importance. At a specific critical concentration of motors, traffic jams form at the tip of the microtubule. As soon as a motor has finished its severi
|Contact: Dr. Kathrin Bilgeri|