Erik Schäffer

Nanomechanics of Cellular Machines

University of Tübingen
Faculty in: IMPRS

Vita

  • PhD work in polymer physics, Konstanz and Groningen Universities, 1998-2001
  • Postdoctoral training, MPI of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, 2002-06
  • Group leader, TU Dresden, 2007-12
  • Professor for Cellular Nanoscience at the University of Tübingen since 2012

Research Interest
Molecular machines are fascinating devices that drive self-organization in cells. While the protein components of many biological machines have been identified, the mechanical principles that govern the operation of biological machines are poorly understood. For example, how much force can they generate; and what limits their speed and efficiency? We use and develop single-molecule fluorescence and label-free microscopy, high-resolution optical tweezers and novel trapping probes to measure intermolecular forces that are central to biological questions such as how kinesin motor proteins move and diffuse along microtubules, orchestrate plant cytokinesis, or how damaged DNA is repaired via homologous recombination.













 

Rotational hand-over-hand kinesin stepping mechanism with substeps.  Animation made by Janet Iwasa based on Sudhakar 2021 & Ramaiya 2017.

Kinesin motor transports vesicle along microtubule.

Rotational hand-over-hand kinesin stepping mechanism with substeps.  Animation made by Janet Iwasa based on Sudhakar 2021 & Ramaiya 2017.

 

Available PhD Projects in the IMPRS

  • High resolution tracking of kinesin motors using germanium nanospheres: You will work with kinesins and microtubule associated proteins that are involved in transport or cell division.  Using purified components and reconstituted assays, you will perform ultraresolution tracking, single-molecule localization and force measurements to decipher how these molecular machines fulfil their cellular function.

Applications are now closed.

 

Selected Reading

  • Swathi Sudhakar, Mohammad Kazem Abdosamadi, Tobias Jörg Jachowski, Michael Bugiel, Anita Jannasch, Erik Schäffer (2021) Germanium nanospheres for ultraresolution picotensiometry of kinesin motors. Science 371:eabd9944
  • Ramaiya A, Roy B, Bugiel M, Schäffer E (2017) Kinesin rotates unidirectionally and generates torque while walking on microtubules. PNAS 114: 10894–10899.
  • Bormuth V, Varga V, Howard J, Schäffer E (2009). Protein friction limits diffusive and directed movements of kinesin motors on microtubules.  Science 325:870-873.

 

 

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