Purified motor proteins organise microtubules in micrometre-sized droplets

We are studying the molecular scaffolding inside cells to understand how they change shape and move.

All animal cells contain a internal ‘scaffold’, known as the cytoskeleton, which adapts as a cell changes shape and moves around. It is made from small molecular building blocks that come together to form a wide range of complex, dynamic structures.

We are studying the components of the cytoskeleton in great detail, using high-powered microscopes to see the individual molecules at work. We want to understand more about how all the different parts work together and how they change as a cell alters its shape – for example, when a cell divides to make two new cells – and find out how complex biological structures can be created from simple, smaller parts.

We are also constructing an artificial ‘test tube’ cytoskeleton, so we can watch exactly how the components of the scaffold come together and organise themselves into different structures. And we want to know how the scaffold changes in response to changing conditions or activities inside the cell.

By applying principles from engineering, chemistry and biology we are discovering the mechanics at work within the cytoskeleton, revealing new information about the fundamental physical properties of living cells.