In physical sciences, it has been realized since the days of Isaac Newton that mechanical force is the key parameter that determines the motion of bodies.
The important role mechanical forces play even in complex biological systems is just beginning to emerge.
Mechanical forces control many vital functions like muscle contraction, cell locomotion, cell signaling and division or transport processes.
In turn, biological systems also have the ability to sense mechanical forces. Examples are the sense of touch, hearing and the response of tissues to external mechanical stimuli.
The major goal of this collaborative research center is to improve our understanding of force-driven mechanical processes in complex biomolecular networks from the single molecule to the whole cell level. We will follow an integrated approach ranging from intra-molecular forces (friction, hydrophobic forces, molecular force-sensing, protein folding) via intermolecular forces (adhesion, molecular motors) to mechanically strained molecular networks (cytoskeleton, nuclear mechanics) and whole cell mechanics. The proposed research programme builds upon a close interplay between theoretical and experimental groups with expertise from biophysics, physical chemistry, biochemistry and cell biology. We envision that similar to the key role that the patch-clamp technology had for the quantitative understanding of ion-channels and electrophysiology, the single-molecule mechanical methods developed and applied in this collaborative research center will allow a quantitative understanding of force generation, force sensing and force signaling in complex cellular systems. Over the course of 12 years and beyond, the work on mechanomic questions carried out in this proposed collaborative research center and worldwide will provide new methods and concepts for structural and cell biology.