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Epithelial Intercellular Junctions as Dynamic Hubs to Integrate Forces, Signals and Cell Behaviour (SPP 1782)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled "Epithelial Intercellular Junctions as Dynamic Hubs to Integrate Forces, Signals and Cell Behaviour" (SPP 1782). The programme is designed to run for six years, the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.
Epithelia are stable tissues that line organ and body surfaces to provide structural support and serve as barriers against diverse external stressors such as mechanical force, pathogens, toxins, and dehydration. Further, they separate different physiological environments and are instrumental during morphogenesis. These epithelial functions depend to a great extent on the ability of intercellular junctions to sense and integrate mechanical forces and chemical signals. They transmit these into the cell to direct rapid changes in cell architecture and/or transcriptional programming thus directing cellular behaviour.
Understanding how intercellular junctions sense their neighbours, force and chemical signals, how such information at these junctions is integrated to elicit cellular responses at a mechanistic level will be central to comprehend control of tissue morphogenesis, homeostasis and regeneration. Further, elucidating how genetic defects in intercellular junction components by-pass junction-mediated control of epithelial tissue integrity is a prerequisite to understand the basis of multiple disorders including blistering skin disorders, inflammation and cancer.
The primary goal of the Priority Programme is thus to understand how intercellular junctions sense and respond to mechanical and chemical signals from neighbouring cells and how they convert these signals into processes that underlie epithelial morphogenesis, differentiation and pathogenesis. To this end the Priority Programme invites interdisciplinary approaches that bridge the levels of molecules, cells, tissues and model organisms, combining biophysical, biochemical, cell biological and physiological techniques. Projects should aim at the following goals:

- identification of molecules that sense and transmit mechanical force and chemical signals at intercellular junctions, to get insights into downstream signal transmission
- integration of mechanical and chemical signals by adherens junctions and desmosomes to regulate cell behaviour and cell fate
- understanding at a quantitative level how mechanical force is sensed at intercellular junctions and how it is transmitted into chemical signals
- elucidation of the force-dependent crosstalk between intercellular junctions and the cytoskeleton
- advancement of biophysical and imaging methods to analyse force and chemical signal transmission via adhesive junctions in tissues
To foster optimal collaboration between groups, the following projects are explicitly excluded:
- work on cytoskeletal proteins not focussing on their interactions with intercellular junctions
- analysis of cell-matrix junctions except if they address crosstalk between hemidesmosomes and intercellular junctions
- studies on gap and tight junctions except if they investigate potential adhesive functions
- descriptive approaches including non-mechanistic studies on disease conditions or animal models
- identification or characterisation of adhesive junction-related biomarkers

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft e.V.
Kennedyallee 40
53175 Bonn

Professor Dr. Thomas Magin,
Universität Leipzig
Translationszentrum für Regenerative Medizin
Philipp-Rosenthal-Straße 55
04103 Leipzig
phone: +49 341 97-39582,

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