International Max Planck Research School in Chemical and Molecular Biology
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Dr. Peter Bieling

Since 2016: Group Leader at the MPI of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
2010–2015: Postdoc with Dyche Mullins (UCSF) and Dan Fletcher (UC Berkeley)
2008–2009: Bridging Postdoc with Thomas Surrey (EMBL Heidelberg)
2004–2008: PhD Student with Thomas Surrey (EMBL Heidelberg)
2003–2004: Master thesis with Marina Rodnina (Witten/Herdecke University, now MPI Göttingen)

Research Interest
My lab is interested in the molecular mechanisms that regulate changes in cellular morphology and the underlying polarization of the signaling molecules that control these processes. Nearly all cells display some form of polarity, which allows them to perform spatially complex functions such as movement or the formation of tissues and organs. Polarization requires a complex interplay between biochemical signals that are generated at the plasma membrane and cytoplasmic molecules, most importantly the actin cytoskeleton.

While many key players of cell polarity and morphogenesis are now known, we currently do not understand how spatial signaling systems can break symmetry and how the size and shape of their emerging domains is determined. Importantly, we have not yet managed to re-built systems from defined components that recapitulate membrane polarization in vitro.

Instead of studying membrane polarity and actin assembly in their complex cellular environment, we reconstitute these processes from purified proteins using a bottom-up approach. Using cell motility as a testbed, we test our understanding of these systems by employing synthetic biology techniques to rationally engineer biomimetic networks capable of autonomously breaking membrane symmetry. Combining multi-protein reconstitution with advanced fluorescence imaging (TIRFM, FLIM) down to the level of single molecules allows us to study and manipulate all biochemical activities in great detail to reveal the design principles underlying protein self-organization.

in vitro reconstitution, bio-mimetic membrane systems, advanced fluorescence techniques (TIRF, FLIM, single molecule imaging), synthetic biology

Selected Reading
Bieling P, Li T-D, Weichsel J, McGorty R, Jreij P, Huang B, Fletcher DA, Mullins RD. Force Feedback Controls Motor Activity and Mechanical Properties of Self-Assembling Branched Actin Networks. Cell 2016, 164, 115-27.

Bieling P, Telley IA, Surrey T. A minimal midzone protein module controls formation and length of antiparallel microtubule overlaps. Cell 2010, 142, 420-32.

Bieling P, Laan L, Schek H, Munteanu EL, Sandblad L, Dogterom M, Brunner D, Surrey T. Reconstitution of a microtubule plus-end tracking system in vitro. Nature 2007, 450, 1100-5.

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