Scientific Internship: Taking a close peak at mammalian membranes: developing a biomimetic model of cell membranes
As an intern in our Physics of Cellular Interactions group headed by Dr. Kristina Ganzinger, you will develop a protocol to turn cell membranes into supported bilayers amendable to modification and microscopy, and you will study the fluidity of the membranes and the orientation of the proteins in these membranes. For this project, you will learn how to culture cells, prepare membranes from their plasma membrane and study them using microscopy combined with a method called fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). While these techniques will be at the core of your research project, you will have the freedom to explore your own research ideas and other methods in consultation with your supervisor and depending on the course of the project.
More about the project
Phospholipid membranes are complex supramolecular assemblies involved in every aspect of biological function. By encapsulating the cellular metabolism and genetic material, cell membranes separate living entities from their environment. Conversely, this means that any information exchange between cells and their environment has to occur at and across these membrane interfaces. Membranes thus serve as a hub for cellular decision making. Our group aims to investigate the interplay of membrane properties and cell signaling processes. We approach these questions by reconstituting the underlying basic processes in model membranes systems in vitro. However, a full bottom-up approach, i.e. using solely purified proteins and lipids to generate an experimental system of defined composition, is not always feasible. Reconstruction approaches that rely on extracting membranes from cells for in vitro studies are therefore a valuable tool to bridge the gap between in vitro experiments with pure components and in vivo experiments in cells. Therefore, this project will create reconstituted cell membranes by incorporating cell membrane fragments into supported lipid bilayers.
About the group
The group Physics of Cellular Interactions focuses specifically on processes that are critical to the immune system. Inspired by previous research projects that have shown the importance of spatiotemporal constraints for T cell activation (Nat Immun 2016), we investigate the interplay of membrane topography and signaling. This means exploring how cells shape their membranes not only in response to signals, but also to detect and discriminate them. We address these questions mainly by reconstituting signaling processes in model-membrane systems (“artificial cells”). By combining this synthetic biology approach with tools from single-molecule biophysics and microfabrication (JACS 2013, PloS One 2013, Nat Comm in press), we can study signaling in isolation from cellular cross-talk.
You have a Bachelors degree in physics, (bio)chemistry or molecular biology and participate in a Master study in one of these areas. The internship must be a mandatory part of your curriculum. You have a nationality of an EU-member state and/or you are a student at a Netherlands University. We expect you to be available for at least 5 months, although longer is preferable.
Terms of employment
At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your AMOLF supervisor.
dr. Kristina Ganzinger
Group leader Physics of Cellular Interactions
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100
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– List of followed courses plus grades.
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