Matías Hernández, PhD

Current Position: Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology, Dortmund, since 2016
Postdoc: Department of Neurobiology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (2011-2013), Department of Cellular and Molecular Biophysics, Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany (2013-2016)
PhD: Department of Neurobiology, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany (2007-2011)
BSc and MSc: Chemistry, University of Sydney, Australia (2001-2006)

Research Interest
We aim to uncover the molecular mechanisms responsible for the membrane fusion between cells.  This fundamental process of eukaryotic cell biology is what allows gametes to merge during sexual reproduction, a key evolutionary event in the emergence of complex life in our planet. In addition, cell-cell fusion is required for the development of syncytial tissues such as muscle and the placenta.

Using budding yeast as our model system, we use a range of biochemical and biophysical approaches to identify the molecular players which drive cell-cell membrane fusion. More specifically, we are primarily concerned with the biochemistry at the level of the plasma membrane in an attempt to identify previously uncharacterized proteins with a putative role in fusion. In one approach, we have been conducting proteomic analysis of purified yeast plasma membrane fractions, and are currently studying putative fusogen candidates. In a different complementary approach, we are also constructing novel fusion assays using yeast spheroplasts i.e. cells which have had their cell walls enzymatically removed, thus exposing the plasma membrane to direct biochemical analysis and manipulation.

Top-down biochemical reconstitution, membrane biophysics, yeast biology, sub-proteomics, live cell imaging

Selected Reading
Hernandez JM, Kreutzberger AJ, Kiessling V, Tamm LK, Jahn R. Variable cooperativity in SNARE-mediated membrane fusion. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2014 111, 12037–12042.

Aguilar PS, Baylies MK, Fleissner A, Helming L, Inoue N, Podbilewicz B, Wang H, Wong M. Genetic basis of cell–cell fusion mechanisms. Trends Genet 2013, 29, 427–437.

Hernandez JM, Stein A, Behrmann E, Riedel D, Cypionka A, Farsi Z, Walla PJ, Raunser S, Jahn R. Membrane Fusion Intermediates via Directional and Full Assembly of the SNARE Complex. Science 2012, 336, 1581–1584.

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