Epithelial mechanotransduction

In this project we focus on the mechanics and mechanotransduction of epithelium and especially epithelial nuclei. We are interested about the force transduction between the cells and how the forces can control nuclear lamina and chromatin organization. The long-term goal is to understand how mechanical cues can alter gene expression patterns in health and in disease. The main methods include high-resolution microscopy (confocal and super-resolution), different hydrogel-based or micro-engineered cell culture substrates, next-generation sequencing and optogenetics.


Nuclear mechanoadaptation

Mechanical forces affect tumorigenesis, invasion and metastatic processes in cancer. Reinforcing, recent findings underline the importance of mechanical forces in nuclear remodelling including nuclear envelope deformation, and changes in nuclear lamina and chromatin organization. In this project, the aim is to study how inter-cellular compressive forces affect nucleus morphology and genetic programming including epithelial-mesenchymal transition and phenotypic reversion in epithelial carcinomas, mainly prostate cancer. The main goal of the study is to understand in detail how nuclear envelope co-regulates chromatin organization under increased compressive force in healthy and prostate cancer cells. Its findings will deepen the current knowledge on the causal connections between compressive force and cell fate. The main tools in this project are in-house built Lego-based cell stretchers, RNAseq, Dam-ID, ATACseq, ATACsee, expansion microscopy and advanced live cell imaging.
Responsible person: AoF postdoctoral fellow Elina Mäntylä, Ph.D.

RPE – retina interaction

Here we investigate the interaction between retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and retina. RPE resides in the back of the eye and associates closely with the retinal photoreceptor cells. RPE is absolutely crucial for retinal wellbeing as it supports photoreceptor physiology. The interface of the RPE and retina is highly dynamic, e.g. RPE phagocytoses and recycles daily approximately 10% of the photoreceptors. In this project we use different hydrogel and microengineering approaches to investigate this interaction.
Responsible person: Ph.D. student Sanna Korpela, M.Sc. (tech)


Optical control of cellular mechanics

This project aims to combine light responsive materials and optogenetic control of cellular contractility. Optogenetics allow light induced control of protein dimerization. This can be used to activate cellular signalling or other activities. Here optogenetics will be employed to activate RhoA signalling, which leads into increased cellular contractility. This approach allows detailed studies of cell contractility induced effects on cell nucleus and chromatin organization. Furthermore, it will be employed in various biomimetic platforms.
Responsible person: Ph.D. student Heidi Peussa, M.Sc. (tech)