9th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
September 24-26, 2018
Invited Talk
Physics of cell adhesion: The role of the membrane in the protein recognition process
Ana Suncana Smith1,2
1PULS Group, Institut für Theoretische Physik and the Excellence Cluster: EAM, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, Naegelsbachstrasse 49b, 91052 Erlangen, Germany
2Institute Ruđer Bošković, Division of Physical Chemistry, Bijenicka 54, Zagreb, Croatia
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In embryogenesis, vertebrate cells assemble into organized tissues. In metastatic cancer, cells spreading in the circulatory system build cell-cell contacts with the surrounding tissue to establish new tumors. At the root of these life-forming or life-threatening biological phenomena is cell adhesion, the binding of a biological cell to other cells or to extracellular matrix. The most obvious fundamental question to ask is then as follows: What factors control or govern cell adhesion? For a long time, the paradigmatic answer to this question was that specific protein molecules embedded in the cell wall (or membrane) were responsible for cell adhesion, in either a key-lock fashion (in cell-cell adhesion) or a suction-cup fashion (in cell-matrix adhesion). But, a new realization has emerged during the past two decades that physical mechanisms, promoted by the cell membrane, play an unavoidable, yet not fully understood role. Although these physical elements, namely membrane fluctuations and ability to change shape, do not at all depend on any specific proteins, they can have a major impact on the protein-mediated adhesion, and can be viewed as mechanism that controls the binding affinity to the cell-adhesion molecules. In my talk I will show how these mechanisms can be studied in mimetic models both experimentally and theoretically, the result of which will be discussed in the cellular context.
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