Biophysics of cell adhesion: how cells sense and respond to force

Seminar | March 6 | 12-1 p.m. | 106 Stanley Hall

 Sanjeevi Sivasankar, Univerisity of California, Davis

 Bioengineering (BioE)

Cells in tissues exert forces as they squeeze, stretch, flex and pull on each other. These forces are incredibly small - on the scale of piconewtons, but they are essential in mediating cell survival, proliferation, and differentiation. A key protein responsible for sensing mechanical forces, are the classical cadherin family of cell-cell adhesion proteins. Cadherins are essential for the formation and maintenance of tissue; disruption in cadherin adhesion result in severe diseases like cancer and cardio-vascular disease. However, the biophysical mechanisms by which cadherins sense and respond to mechanical forces are currently unknown. My group’s research directly addresses this critical gap by integrating ultrasensitive single molecule measurements with highly predictive computer simulations. In my talk, I will show how extracellular mechanical forces tune classical cadherin conformation on the cell surface and its adhesion. I will also show how force-induced changes in cadherin structure and function are regulated. Finally, I will describe how classical cadherins initiate the assembly of other adhesive organelles like desmosomes.