Our ambition is to quantitatively understand living systems on the scale of individually active and interactive molecules such as proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. We primarily employ single molecule fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, supplemented by force microscopy to achieve resolution far below the diffraction limit.
Although our methods are tailored to investigate single molecules even in complex environments such as living cells and embryos, we found that for a better understanding of underlying basic principles of biological phenomena, it is indispensable to reconstitute selected subsystems in biomimetic environments, and investigate them under well-defined conditions. Therefore, we follow a bottom-up approach of minimal systems in the framework of synthetic biology.
As a first step towards elucidating fundamental phenomena, such as self-organization and pattern formation, we focus on the study of membrane proteins in controlled lipid environments to better comprehend the relevance of local lipid structures in cellular membrane transformations. We utilize a selection of model membrane systems, to which we anchor cytoskeletal elements and other membrane-transforming protein machineries. The very far goal of such approaches could be the in vitro reconstitution of a self-replicating biomimetic system.