Research in the Bastmeyer group is focused on molecular mechanisms involved in the development of the nervous system and in cell adhesion/migration. Our main activities can presently be divided into three research areas: (i) Zebrafish Neurodevelopment. These projects focus on cell adhesion molecules of the NCAM-type (neural cell adhesion molecule) and their modifications by sugar epitopes, which are synthesized by a family of sialyltransferases.
To provide a molecular framework for understanding the evolution of this system, we combine phylogenetic analyses, gene expression studies and functional assays. (ii) Axon Guidance. As a model for the development of topographic connections, we investigate the retinotectal projection where axons are guided by graded distributions of Ephrins and Eph-receptors. To understand how growth cones read out special distributions of guidance molecules, we combine theoretical modeling approaches with the development of novel assay substrates, e.g., defined patterns or gradients of these proteins. (iii) Cell Adhesion and Migration.
Cell adhesion, the interaction of cells with each other or with the extracellular matrix (ECM), is a complex process that plays a fundamental role during development of multicellular organisms. We apply various techniques (microcontact-printing, microfluidic networks, dip-pen lithography, photopatterning) to functionalize surfaces with bio-molecules in a controlled density and with a defined geometry. Using these micro-patterned substrates we study the formation and dynamics of cell-substrate contact sites with live-cell super resolution microscopy (SIM and PAL-M) and the molecular mechanisms involved in directed cell migration in adhesive gradients (haptotaxis).
In cooperation with physicists we have applied 2-photon lithography (direct-laser-writing, DLW) to manufacture tailored 3D microstructures as cellular growth substrates to study the influence of physical aspects, like elasticity, on a single cellular level in a manageable 3D environment. In cooperation with chemists, we are presently developing novel light-induced coupling reactions, to functionalize these 3D scaffolds with multiple bio-molecules in a precise pattern. In summary, these novel methods will open intriguing possibilities to systematically study the effects of spatial ligand distributions and mechanical scaffold stiffness on cell behaviour and stem cell differentiation in 3D environments.
For more information on the group see: https://znbio.zoo.kit.edu/