understanding membrane fission
Cell membranes are spontaneously formed by the self-assembly of lipids into a 5-nm thin bilayer sheet. They have unique mechanical properties. Foremost among them is their ability to resist rupture. This property lies at the heart of evolution choosing lipids as the material to contain life within membrane-bound compartments. But cells have also evolved mechanisms to compartmentalise the cytoplasm into vesicles and organelles and pathogens and viruses have evolved mechanisms to enter cells enveloped inside vesicles. The formation of vesicles and division of organelles requires active bending and fission of the membrane, which are processes that are managed by specialised protein machines. Our research focuses on identifying such protein machines and understanding where and how they function in cells. Using arrayed membrane nanotubes that represent a facile read-out for membrane fission (see movie), we discover, analyze and establish the physiological relevance of such protein machines.