Adhesion of cells and direct communication with their surroundings is vital to the structure, homeostasis and function of every multicellular organism. In our group, we focus on mechanical junctions between adjacent cells, in particular the desmosome.

Dysfunctional desmosomes cause life-threatening pathologies such as the blistering skin disease Pemphigus or the heart disease Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy. Also in cancer metastasis, desmosomal adhesion is altered. In our lab, we aim at elucidating the regulatory mechanisms of desmosomal adhesion to better understand the pathogenesis of these conditions and to identify novel treatment approaches.

Several projects focus both desmosomes in healthy and pathological conditions.

Desmosomal adhesion in the skin

Using 2D and 3D cell culture models and transgenic mice, we investigate the role of specific desmosomal adhesion molecules for the homeostasis of the epidermis and their contribution to diseases such as pemphigus.

Cardiomyopathy and desmosomal adhesion

In this project, we study the mechanisms underlying Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy with focus on the role of desmosomal adhesion. We apply transgenic mouse models mimicking the patients’ situation to investigate pathways leading to this disease and aim to identify new therapeutic targets and approaches.

Modulating intercellular adhesion

Cell junctions are signaling platforms to integrate extra- and intracellular cues. In this project, we determine novel regulatory mechanisms of intercellular junctions. By application of state-of the art unbiased techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 screens we aim to restore dysfunctional adhesion as novel therapeutic approach in disease.

Desmosomal adhesion in cancer

Intercellular adhesion is impaired during invasion and metastasis formation, with differential roles during different steps of the metastatic cascade. Using pancreatic cancer as model system, we investigate the role of desmosomal molecules in these steps.