Our main research focus is on biological membranes. Those are complex architectures, mainly composed of lipids forming a bilayer and therein embedded membrane proteins. Of particular interest is the cell membrane by which the cell is delimited from the environment and at which a multitude of processes occurs (e.g. exchange of metabolites, activation of signalling pathways after ligand binding, adhesion of the cell, exocytosis and endocytosis).
The protein density of the cell membrane is extraordinarily high because although it contains many components it occupies less than 1% of the entire cell volume. This generates special reaction conditions, allowing proteins to aggregate to protein clusters. These clusters are smaller than 100 nm and presumably part of more complex protein networks.
We study the mechanisms that drive such cluster formation and the biological functions that are associated therewith (see figure). Exemplary for membrane proteins we investigate proteins from the SNARE family (those play a role in synaptic transmission; see e.g. Weber et al., Elife, 2017; Merklinger et al., Elife, 2017), the Alzheimer protein Amyloid Precursor Protein (Schreiber et al., Biophys. J., 2012; De Coninck et al., Biophys. J., 2018) and proteins from the tetraspanin family (those are involved in many processes by organizing the membrane; see e.g. Homsi et al., Biophys. J., 2014; Schmidt et al., Biophys. J., 2016).