Optogenetic control of signaling to investigate cell shape change during apical-basal polarisation

Karl Matter (primary)
Institute of Ophtalmology
Guillaume Charras (secondary)
London Centre for Nanotechnology


Apical-basal polarization is fundamental for the development and function of epithelial tissues. Loss of normal polarity is often associated with epithelial tumorigenesis due to a tumour suppressive function of the molecular machinery that regulates cell polarity. Cell polarization is driven by polarity determinants like the evolutionarily conserved partitioning-defective PAR proteins that are separated into distinct cortical domains. Polarisation drives cellular shape changes that necessarily result from generation of mechanical forces. Yet, the link between signaling and force generation remains poorly understood.

The goal of this project is to determine how PAR signaling controls cell mechanics and tissue morphogenesis.


Khalilgharibi N,…., Miodownik M, Charras G. “Stress relaxation in epithelial monolayers is controlled by the actomyosin cortex”. Nature Physics, 15:839-847 (2019).

Valon L, …, Wyatt T, Charras G, Trepat X. “Optogenetic control of traction forces, cell-cell forces and mechanotransduction, Nature Communications, 8:14396, (2017).

Cao L, Yonis A, Vaghela M, …, Romet-Lemonne G, Charras G. “SPIN90 associates with mDia1 and the Arp2/3 complex to control cortical actin organization”. Nature Cell Biology, 22:803-814, (2020).

Zihni C, …, Matter K. “An apical MRCK-driven morphogenetic pathway controls epithelial polarity”. Nature Cell Biology, 19:1049-1060, (2017).

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biologyMolecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
Cell BiologyPhysiology
Techniques & Approaches
BiophysicsEngineeringImage ProcessingMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling