The biophysics of cellular interactions
Hyaluronan (HA), a widely expressed, evolutionary extremely well preserved, polyanionic mucopoly-saccharide has been identified as a key player in many biological processes such as wound healing, yet its exact role and possible exploit in medical products remain elusive. Studies are impeded by the very weak, often multivalent interactions of hyaluronan with a vast variety of binding proteins, so called hyaladherins. These hyaladherins interact with hyaluronan both within the extracellular matrix and on cell surfaces. As these interactions are extremely vital for cell survival, the biological function of individual hyaladherins can often be substituted by others in knock-out experiments. All of these factors lead to the high complexity of studies illuminating the role of hyaluronan contributions and its size dependent bioactivity as well as the activity of attached hyaladherins.
We work on elucidating the interactions of cells and there environment focusing especially on the role of hyaluronan in the extracellular matrix or the pericellular coat enveloping many mammalian cells. This highly hydrated layer composed of flexible hyaluronan polymers and proteins plays a vital role in cell proliferation, motility and embryogenesis. While the molecular interactions are intensively studied, the micromechanical structure remains poorly understood.