Research Summary

Understanding cell membrane homeostasis during cell stretch

The theme of my research is to study how the tension in the plasma membrane is regulated by various mechanisms (collectively termed as SAR) involving thermal fluctuation to active dynamics; how is that maintained under mechanical stress (cell stretch) and how does it affect cellular functioning. 

Firstly, the necessary tools will be developed to quantify SAR. This will involve using RICM, TIRF and membrane nano-tube extraction, independently, to measure tension 'maps' for cell-footprints, especially through stretchable substrates. Next, membrane tension maps with/without external stretch will be correlated with cellular activity at the membrane to identify mechanisms of SAR. The effect of timescales of stress on the mechanism of SAR will be studied. The model system for the aforementioned basic questions will be HeLa, HEK and NIH3T3 cells where single cell geometries will be employed. The second system addressed will be a spatially/mechanically coupled system - cell monolayer - in which woundhealing assays with/without stress will be performed to understand the physiological relevance of SAR. The third study will be of SAR in a unique geometry – myelinated neurons. Here, the impact of membrane scaffolding by the myelin sheath will provide new insights about how specific mechano-environment can tune SAR. 

Figure Legend: The cartoon depicts cell membrane homeostasis or surface area regulation (SAR) in which the fractional excess area ?A/A is regulated in response to any change brought about by mechanical perturbations.