Gijsje Koenderink

(re)Constructing the active molecular behaviour of cells
TU Delft (the Netherlands)


Prof. Dr. Gijsje Koenderink (1974) is full professor in the Bionanoscience Department of the TU Delft. She trained as a physical chemist (MSc in 1998 and PhD in 2003, both at Utrecht University) and biophysicist (Marie Curie postdoctoral Fellowship at the VU University Amsterdam (2003-2004) and Harvard University (2004-2006)). In 2006 she established the Biological Soft Matter group at the AMOLF institute, where she also headed the Living Matter Department (2014-2019). Prof. Koenderink received various distinctions, including an NWO VIDI (2008), ERC Starting Grant (2013), NWO VICI (2019), P-G. de Gennes Prize (2018), and Dresden Physics Prize (2021). Her lab focuses on quantitative experimental studies of the material properties of cells and tissues. She combines bottom-up synthetic biology approaches with multiscale physical characterization from single molecule force spectroscopy to rheometry. Her group closely collaborates with biological and biomedical groups to address the role of cell and tissue mechanics in disease and tissue regeneration.


About her talk: (re)Constructing the active molecular behaviour of cells

Cells are highly dynamic but at the same time need to withstand large mechanical loads. This paradoxical mechanical behavior is governed by the cytoskeleton, a biopolymer network that spans the entire cell. Its filamentous architecture provides an efficient means of mechanical scaffolding and rigidification. Unlike man-made polymers, however, the cytoskeleton can actively reconfigure itself. Cells are able to actively adjust their stiffness in response to environmental conditions and produce forces that drive cell division and motility. To understand the physical basis of these active material properties, a powerful strategy is to reconstitute cell-free model systems that mimic certain functions of cells from purified cellular components. Together with theoretical modelling, experiments on cell-free systems can uncover how molecular interactions lead to cell-scale functions. I will discuss how cell-free reconstitution is starting to explain how concerted dynamics of all three cytoskeletal filaments (actin filaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments can help cells polarize and move directionally.