Statistical and Biological Physics

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Self-assembly and self-organisation are two fundamental concepts used to explain the astonishing ability of natural systems to autonomously generate complex structures and patterns. Moreover, the artificial fabrication of complex nanostructures via self-assembly is assumed to be of great relevance for future technologies in medicine as well as in engineering, biology and nanotechnology. However, it remains unclear what conditions must be met for such processes to function in a robust and resilient way, and which generic mechanisms apply. A better understanding of the principles and pitfalls of the processes involved might therefore be essential and indicatory for the future development of these fields. more

Many of a cell’s functional constituents such as organelles need to be distributed and organized in a highly orchestrated manner within the cell. To this end, they are actively transported by molecular motors on the two cytoskeletal components: microtubules and actin filaments. Although it is long recognized that motion and an interplay of the dynamics on these two cytoskeletal components is vital to ensure the proper organization of proteins within a cell, general mechanisms that govern the cell-wide distribution of organelles are elusive. In this project we addressed this problem for the case of dark pigment organelles in highly specialized skin cells of fish and amphibians. By a redistribution of these pigment organelles within a cell, the corresponding animals are capable of adapting their skin color to environmental factors. In collaboration with the group of Dr. Zeynep Ökten at the TU Munich, we related biomolecular changes of individual motors that move the pigment organelles on the cytoskeleton to a cell-wide distribution of the organelles. more