The project I’m gonna be involved is about vinculin, a “protein that’s emerging as a crucial component of mechanotransduction: the cell’s mechanism of converting physical stimuli (e.g. forces) into biochemical signals.
Background information (a Nature paper):
- Brenton D. Hoffman, Carsten Grashoff & Martin A. Schwartz. Nature 475, 316–323 doi:10.1038/nature10316.
Cellular responses to mechanical forces are crucial in embryonic development and adult physiology, and are involved in numerous diseases, including atherosclerosis, hypertension, osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy, myopathies and cancer. These responses are mediated by load-bearing subcellular structures, such as the plasma membrane, cell-adhesion complexes and the cytoskeleton. Recent work has demonstrated that these structures are dynamic, undergoing assembly, disassembly and movement, even when ostensibly stable. An emerging insight is that transduction of forces into biochemical signals occurs within the context of these processes. This framework helps to explain how forces of varying strengths or dynamic characteristics regulate distinct signalling pathways.
The PROJECT I WILL DEVELOP:
“The vinculin protein is emerging as a crucial component of mechanotransduction: the cell’s mechanism of converting physical stimuli (e.g. forces) into biochemical signals. In the proposed project, the student will aim to characterise the phenotypic consequences of loss of vinculin in flies. This work will involve genetics, a substantial amount of tissue preparation and immunohistochemistry, high resolution confocal microscopy, image analysis and some behavioural assays. The student will be introduced to working with a model organism in a vibrant research institute, take part in lab meetings and institute talks, and be encouraged to take control of his own work and manage his own data.”