BME Seminar Series: Dr. Daniel Conway, Virginia Commonwealth University
"Measuring mechanical forces at cell-cell junctions and the nuclear LINC complex"
Evidence for mechanical forces at cell-matrix adhesions has existed for over 30 years. Bulk measurement techniques, such as traction force microscopy, can be used to estimate the mechanical forces across focal adhesions, and more recently cell-cell adhesions. However, these techniques cannot measure the mechanical loading of individual proteins. To overcome this limitation my group has focused on using a FRET-based force biosensor. This biosensor, known as TSmod, when inserted into proteins, can be used to make spatial-temporal measurements of mechanical force with protein-level resolution. My group has developed sensors for measuring mechanical forces at tight, adherens, and desmosomal junctions, the three major load bearing structures in the cell-cell junction. Similarly we have extended this technique to measure mechanical force across structures in the nuclear envelope, including the nuclear LINC complex and the nuclear pore complex. The ultimate goal of my research is to understand how mechanical forces impact cellular function. We have been using epithelial monolayers (2D) and epithelial acini (3D) as a model systems to study both cell-cell junction forces and mechanical force on the nucleus. I will present results showing that mechanical force across the adherens junction and the nuclear LINC complex are important regulators of 2D spatial proliferation and 3D epithelial morphognesis and homeostatis.
Daniel Conway is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Biomedical Engineering Department, where he has been faculty since 2013. His group focuses on developing new tools and approaches to measure mechanical forces at cell-cell contacts and the nucleus, with an overall research goal of understanding how mechanical forces on regulate cellular physiology. He is the recipient of an NIH NIGMS MIRA, NSF CAREER Award, as well as funding from the American Heart Association. In 2018 he received the BMES Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Rising Star Award.