Institute of Biochemistry

Britta Qualmann - Institut for Biochemistry I

Single cells, like their higher units of organization, man and animals, are in constant contact with their environment to exchange matter and information. Therefore, endocytosis represents an essential process for cells to take up nutrients but also signal molecules. During the endocytic process, transport vesicles are generated from the outer membrane of the cell, the plasma membrane, and are transported into the cell.
Synaptic contacts of neurons represent specialized cell-cell-contact and -communication interfaces, marked by extraordinarily efficient vesicle cycles and signal transduction processes. This great efficiency is based on a high degree of coordination via cytomatrix and cytoskeletal components associated with the plasma membrane. The modulation and dynamic of these functional connections are important prerequisites for reorganization processes, which represent the basis for synaptic plasticity enabling learning and memory processes. Our studies are thus aimed to unravel the roles of the dynamics and the organization of the cytoskeleton for the formation and movement of intracellular vesicles, for the subcellular organization of complex membrane trafficking pathways and for the modulation of membrane topologies and shapes. Furthermore we would like to understand how these functions are brought about and controlled at the molecular level.
The interdisciplinary work of our group spans three fundamental areas of modern cell biology - membrane trafficking, cytoskeletal dynamics and signal transduction - and integrates them successfully into one research project, which is based on the identification and characterization of molecular links between membrane trafficking processes and cytoskeletal and cytomatrix components. The analysis of these proteins represents a powerful research avenue to unravel the molecular mechanisms of the complex vesicle formation machineries, of their regulation and of their interplay with the cortical cytoskeleton and with specialized cytomatrix structures and simultaneously gain fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms of modulations of membrane topologie, i.e. of the plasticity mechanisms underlying cell shape control and cell shape modulations.
These cell biological insights shall significantly promote our understanding of how the speed and efficiency of synaptic transmission is accomplished and of how the complex and dynamic environment of the synapse is established, maintained and remodeled during processes indispensable for plasticity within neuronal networks.

Research Projects /Forschungsprojekte

Further Research projects at the institute see