Cellular Nanoscience
 Schäffer Lab

How does a cell work, mechanically? How do the individual components, molecules and proteins work to fulfill their cellular function?

Our long term goal is by applying and developing state-of-the-art single molecule techniques to learn more about the mechanical aspects of protein-protein interactions. How are these interactions mediated and realized on a single molecule level and what influences have intermolecular forces? Using optical tweezers, we want to approach and answer fundamental biological questions such as how chromosomes are pulled apart during cell division, how ion-channels are gated, and how DNA is deformed during homologous recombination. Our focus on answering specific biological questions inspires instrument development, which, in turn, we hope broadens the applicability of this technology in biology.

Current Projects

Optical tweezers development
Our optical tweezers setup is compact and stable with sub-nm position and sub-pN force resolution. Currently, we automate the setup and in particular improve the axial detection capabilities.

Video-enhanced LED-DIC
A light emitting diode (LED) replaced our conventional light source for differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy. The contrast is sufficient to visualize single microtubules at video rate.

We have developed an accurate, precise, and in-situ calibration technique for optical tweezers with back focal plane detection.

Mechanics of kinesin-related motor proteins Depolymerizing kinesins shorten microtubules. At present, we work on measuring depolymerisation forces and how the microtubule ends are targeted.

Gating of mechanotransduction
An ankyrin-repeat domain is thought to gate a transduction channel of Drosophila mechanoreceptors. We are characterizing the mechanics of this spring-like domain.

Homologous recombination
The protein machinery responsible for homologous recombination forms complexes with DNA. We work on measuring the complexation dynamics and energetics.



Universität Tübingen

ZMBP, Cellular Nanoscience
Auf der Morgenstelle 32
D-72076 Tübingen/Germany

Prof. Dr. Erik Schäffer



Charlotte Rehm