(Lecture, Oct 25) Molecular Force Sensors: from molecular mechanisms towards applications in biology and materials science


Title: Molecular Force Sensors: from molecular mechanisms towards applications in biology and materials science
Speaker: Dr. Kerstin G. Blank (Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces )
Venue: Room 324, Building No.2, Wushan Campus
Time: Oct. 25, Thursday, 15:00
Biological systems are highly sophisticated smart materials. They are stimuli-responsive and possess impressive self-reporting and self-healing properties. They are consequently an important source of inspiration for materials scientists who aim to implement these properties in synthetic and biomimetic materials. In this context, we are specifically interested in (bio)molecules that act as molecular force sensors. In biological systems, these sensors detect a mechanical stimulus and convert it into a biochemical signal. Mimicking their natural counterparts, a number of different force sensors have been designed and synthesized in recent years that generate an optical output (fluorescence). Following a calibration of their mechanical properties, these artificial force sensors can report on molecular forces in situ in a highly sensitive manner.
In this lecture, I will summarize our efforts towards designing and characterizing molecular force sensors, focusing on two classes of force sensors that are based on fundamentally different molecular mechanisms: The first class utilizes biological molecules that form thermodynamically stable, non-covalent interactions, such as short, double-stranded DNA duplexes or coiled coil interactions. These force sensors report on forces in the range between 10-200 piconewton, making them ideal candidates for applications in biological systems. The second class is based on covalent bonds, which require forces above 400 pN to become activated. One example is the mechanical activation of triazoles as they are formed in a typical ‘click chemistry’ reaction. With these molecular force sensors at hand, our goal is to utilize these sensors for detecting cellular traction forces or for visualizing force propagation pathways in polymeric materials.
Kerstin Blank studied Biotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences in Jena and obtained her diploma in 2000. After 3 years as a project manager in Industry, she returned to Academia. Under supervision of Prof Hermann Gaub at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich she earned her PhD in Biophysics in 2006. After two short postdoctoral stays with Prof Andrew Griffiths (Université de Strasbourg) and Prof Johan Hofkens (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), she became assistant professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen in 2009. In 2014, she moved to the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces where she holds the position of a Max Planck Research Group Leader. Her research interests combine her background in biochemistry and single molecule biophysics with the goal of developing molecular force sensors for biological and materials science applications.

Announced by School of Matreials Science and Engineering