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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



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.
  • How modulating actin organisation and cell mechanics controls cellular shape changes.
  • The cross-talk between cell shape and cell fate.


Main sources of funding: ERC, BBSRC, MRC, Leverhulme Trust

Main Collaborators

Guillaume Charras (LCN, UCL, UK)
Ricardo Henriques (MRC LMCB, UK)
Philippe Roux (IRIC,  Canada)
Guillaume Salbreux (Francis Crick Institute, UK)
Kevin Chalut (Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, UK)
Jenny Nichols (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Ohad Medalia (University of Zurich, Switzerland)



2013-2019 | Professor of Cell Biophysics and MRC Group Leader, UCL, UK
2006-2012 | Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics Dresden, Germany; joint appointment with the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Warsaw, Poland
2001-2005 | PhD in Biophysics, University Paris / Institut Curie, Paris, France
2000-2001 | DEA (Master) "Interface Physics BIology", University Paris / Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
1999-2000 | Agrégation in Physics
1997-1999 | BSc in Physics, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France



2019 | Laureate in the Life Sciences of the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists in the UK 
2018 | elected EMBO member
2017 | Hooke Medal from the British society for Cell Biology
2014 | Philip Leverhulme Prize in Biological Sciences for contributions to Cell Biophysics  


Key publications: 
Vadnjal N, Nourreddine S, Lavoie G, Serres M, Roux PP, Paluch EK. (2022) Proteomic analysis of the actin cortex in interphase and mitosis. J Cell Sci. 135(16),jcs259993.
Yanagida A, Corujo-Simon E, Revell CK, Sahu P, Stirparo GG, Aspalter IM, Winkel AK, Peters R, De Belly H, Cassani DAD, Achouri S, Blumenfeld R, Franze K, Hannezo E, Paluch EK, Nichols J, Chalut KJ. (2022) Cell surface fluctuations regulate early embryonic lineage sorting. Cell.185(5):777-793.e20.

Truong Quang BA, Peters R, Cassani DAD, Chugh P, Clark AG, Agnew M, Charras G, & Paluch EK. (2021). Extent of myosin penetration within the actin cortex regulates cell surface mechanics. Nat Commun. 2021;12(1):6511.

Andrews TGR, Pönisch W, Paluch EK, Steventon BJ, Benito-Gutierrez E. (2021) Single-cell morphometrics reveals ancestral principles of notochord development. Development,148(16):dev199430.

Chaigne A, Smith MB, Lopez Cavestany R, Hannezo E, Chalut KJ, Paluch EK. (2021). Three-dimensional geometry controls division symmetry in stem cell colonies. J Cell Sci, 134(14), jcs255018.

De Belly H, Stubb A, Yanagida A, Labouesse C, Jones PH, Paluch EK, Chalut KJ. (2021) Membrane Tension Gates ERK-Mediated Regulation of Pluripotent Cell Fate. Cell Stem Cell, 28(2):273-284.

Chaigne A, Labouesse C, White IJ, Agnew M, Hannezo E, Chalut KJ, Paluch EK. (2020) Abscission Couples Cell Division to Embryonic Stem Cell Fate. Dev Cell, 55:195-208.

Kirkland NK, Yuen AC,  Tozluoglu M,  Hui N ,  Paluch EK*,  Mao Y*. (2020) Tissue mechanics regulate mitotic nuclear dynamics during epithelial development. Curr Biol, 30, 1-14.

Serres MP, Samwer M, Truong Quang BA, Lavoie G, Perera U, Görlich D, Charras G, Petronczki M, Roux PP, Paluch EK. (2020). F-actin interactome reveals vimentin as a key regulator of actin organization and cell mechanics in mitosis. Dev Cell, 52:1-13.

Hetmanski JHR, de Belly H, Busnelli I, Waring  T, Nair RV, Sokleva V, Dobre O, Cameron A, Gauthier N, Lamaze C, Swift J, Del Campo A,  Starborg T, Zech T, Goetz JG, Paluch EK, Schwartz JM, Caswell PT. (2019) Membrane Tension Orchestrates Rear Retraction in Matrix-Directed Cell Migration. Dev Cell, 51:460-475.

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

De Belly H, Paluch EK, Chalut KJ. (2022) Interplay between mechanics and signalling in regulating cell fate Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. doi: 10.1038/s41580-022-00472-z. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35365816.

Bodor DL, Pönisch W, Endres RG, Paluch EK. (2020) Of Cell Shapes and Motion: the Physical Basis of Animal Cell Migration.  Dev Cell, 52: 550-562. 

Chugh P, Paluch EK. (2018) The actomyosin cortex at a glance. J Cell Sci, 131(14). 

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.

Professor of Anatomy
Fellow of Trinity College
Picture of Prof Ewa K Paluch

Contact Details

+44 (0) 1223 33833
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