Ewa Paluch

Actin cortex mechanics and cell shape

The cell cortex is a network of actin, myosin and associated proteins 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 mitosis, cytokinesis, and cell locomotion, and in the pathophysiology of diseases such as cancer where cortical contractility is upregulated. Despite its importance, little is known about how the cortex is assembled and regulated.

As the cortex is an intrinsically mechanical structure (its biological activity results from its ability to contract and to exert forces), its physiological properties cannot be understood in isolation from its mechanics. The main focus of the group is to understand how these mechanical properties are determined by the molecular components of the cortex and how these properties are regulated, locally and globally, to drive cellular deformations. We particularly investigate the regulation of cellular mechanics during cytokinesis and cell migration. We combine biophysical and molecular approaches and focus on:

  • the molecular basis of cortical mechanical properties,
  • the mechanisms of formation of blebs, cellular protrusions directly resulting from cortical contractions,
  • the role of cortex tension and blebs during cytokinesis,
  • the formation and role of different types of protrusions during migration in vivo and in 3-dimensionnal environments.

Blebbing during cytokinesis in a mouse fibroblast (green: myosin-GFP).

Blebbing Walker 256 carcinosarcoma cell expressing Lifeact-GFP (scale bar: 10µm).


Walker 256 carcinosarcoma cell migrating in a narrow, microfluidic channel (scale bar: 10µm)

Selected Publications

Green, Rebecca A; Paluch, Ewa; Oegema, Karen
Cytokinesis in animal cells.
Annu. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol., 28, pp. 29-58, (2012)
Bergert, Martin; Chandradoss, Stanley Dinesh; Desai, Ravi; Paluch, Ewa
Cell mechanics control rapid transitions between blebs and lamellipodia during migration.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 109, no. 36, pp. 14434-14439, (2012)
Maître, Jean-Léon; Berthoumieux, Hélène; Krens, Simon Frederik Gabriel; Salbreux, Guillaume; Jülicher, Frank; Paluch, Ewa; Heisenberg, Carl-Philipp
Adhesion Functions in Cell Sorting by Mechanically Coupling the Cortices of Adhering Cells.
Science, 338, no. 6104, pp. 253-256, (2012)
Salbreux, Guillaume; Charras, Guillaume; Paluch, Ewa
Actin cortex mechanics and cellular morphogenesis.
Trends Cell Biol., 22, no. 10, pp. 536-545, (2012)
Sedzinski, Jakub; Biro, Mate; Oswald, Annelie; Tinevez, Jean-Yves; Salbreux, Guillaume; Paluch, Ewa
Polar actomyosin contractility destabilizes the position of the cytokinetic furrow.
Nature, 476, no. 7361, pp. 462-466, (2011)
Clark, Andrew; Paluch, Ewa
Mechanics and regulation of cell shape during the cell cycle.
Cell Cycle in Development, chapt. 3, pp. 31-73, in: Results and Problems in Cell Differentiation, 53, (2011)
Diz-Muñoz, Alba; Krieg, Michael; Bergert, Martin; Ibarlucea-Benitez, Itziar; Müller, Daniel J. ; Paluch, Ewa; Heisenberg, Carl-Philipp
Control of directed cell migration in vivo by membrane-to-cortex attachment.
PLoS Biol., 8, no. 11, (2010)
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Tinevez, Jean-Yves; Schulze, Ulrike; Salbreux, Guillaume; Roensch, Julia; Joanny, Jean-François; Paluch, Ewa
Role of cortical tension in bleb growth.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 106, no. 44, pp. 18581-18586, (2009)
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Charras, Guillaume; Paluch, Ewa
Blebs lead the way: how to migrate without lamellipodia.
Nat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol., 9, no. 9, pp. 730-736, (2008)
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Paluch, Ewa; Gucht, Jasper van der; Sykes, Cécile
Cracking up: symmetry breaking in cellular systems.
J. Cell Biol., 175, no. 5, pp. 687-692, (2006)
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Bergert et al (PNAS 2012) is
- listed as a "Must Read" by the Faculty of 1000:
- featured by the Cell Migration Gateway: