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Prof Ewa K Paluch

We investigate how animal cells control their shape. As shape is inherently controlled by mechanical forces, we combine biology and physics to understand how cells regulate their own mechanics, and how cell mechanics determine shape in healthy and disease conditions.
Prof Ewa K Paluch

Director of Research

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 33833

Research Interests

The mechanobiology of cell shape control

My group investigates the basic principles underlying animal cell morphogenesis. A precise control of cellular shape is key to cell physiology, and cell shape deregulation is at the heart of many pathological disorders including cancer. Yet, how cells regulate their own shape remains poorly understood. We investigate this question taking an interdisciplinary approach combining molecular and cell biology, quantitative imaging, mechanical measurements and physical modelling.

We particularly focus on the cell cortex, a thin actomyosin network that lies under the plasma membrane and determines the shape of most animal cells. The cortex
enables the cell to resist externally applied stresses and to exert mechanical work. As such, it plays a role in normal physiology during events involving cell deformation such as cell division and migration, and in the pathophysiology of diseases such as cancer where cell shape is often deregulated.

Key questions we investigate include:

  • The nanoscale architecture of the cortex, to understand cortex mechanics across scales, from molecular processes up.
  • The biomechanics of cell division and migration.
  • The cross-talk between cell shape and cell fate in mouse embryonic stem cells.

The lab is currently based at the MRC-LMCB, University College London, and will be moving to PDN in 2019.



Guillaume Salbreux (Francis Crick Institute, London)
Guillaume Charras (LCN, University College London)
Guillaume Romet-Lemonne (IJM, Paris)
Philippe Roux (IRIC, Montreal)
Kevin Chalut (Cambridge Stem Cell Institute)
Jenny Nichols (PDN / Cambridge Stem Cell Institute)
Ricardo Henriques (MRC-LMCB, University College London)
Ohad Medalia (University of Zurich)

Key Publications

Chugh P, Clark AG, Smith MB, Cassani DA, Ragab A, Roux P, Charras G, Salbreux G, Paluch EK. (2017) Actin cortex architecture regulates cell surface tension. Nat Cell Biol. 19:689-697.

Diz-Muñoz A, Romanczuk P, Yu W, Bergert M, Ivanovitch K, Salbreux G, Heisenberg CP, Paluch EK. (2016) Steering cell migration by alternating blebs and lamellipodia. BMC Biol. 14:74

Bergert M, Erzberger A, Desai RA, Aspalter IM, Oates AC, Charras G, Salbreux G,Paluch EK. (2015) Force transmission during adhesion-independent migration. Nat Cell Biol, 17:524-529.

Bovellan M, Romeo Y, Biro M, Boden A, Chugh P, Yonis A, Vaghela M, Fritzsche M,Moulding D, Thorogate R, Jégou A, Thrasher AJ, Romet-Lemonne G, Roux PP*, Paluch EK*, Charras G*. (2014) Cellular control of cortical actin nucleation. Curr Biol, 24:1628-1635.

Biro M, Romeo Y, Kroschwald S, Bovellan M, Boden A, Tcherkezian J, Roux PP, Charras G and Paluch EK. (2013) Cell cortex composition and homeostasis resolved by integrating proteomics and quantitative imaging. Cytoskeleton, 70:741-754.

Clark AG, Dierkes K and Paluch EK. (2013) Monitoring actin cortex thickness in live cells. Biophys J, 105:570-580.

Maître JL, Berthoumieux H, Krens G, Salbreux G, Jülicher F, Paluch E* and Heisenberg CP.* (2012) Adhesion functions in cell sorting by mechanically coupling the cortices of adhering cells. Science, 338:253-256

Bergert M, Chandradoss SD, Desai RA, Paluch E. (2012) Cell mechanics control rapid transitions between blebs and lamellipodia during migration. PNAS, 109:14434-14439.

Sedzinski J., Biro M., Oswald A., Tinevez J.Y., Salbreux G. and Paluch E. (2011) Polar acto-myosin contractility destabilises the position of the cleavage furrow during
cytokinesis. Nature, 476:462-466.

Recent reviews

Koenderink GH, Paluch EK. (2018) Architecture shapes contractility in actomyosin networks. Curr Op Cell Biol. 50:79-85.

Paluch EK, Aspalter I, Sixt M. (2016) Focal-adhesion independent cell migration. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 32:469-490.

Clark AG, Wartlick O, Salbreux G and Paluch EK. (2014) Stresses at the cell surface during animal cell morphogenesis. Curr Biol, 24:R484-494.