Principles of Matrix Architecture in Biofilms
Biological tissues are complex 3D structures that form as cellular organisms get embedded in a matrix of self-produced fibrous biopolymers. The general interest of our group is to clarify the principles that guide tissue architecture and address the following questions:
- How is cellular mechanosensing integrated at the supracellular scale?
- What is the role of extracellular matrix architecture?
- What are the consequences on tissue functions?
In other words, we would like to understand how cells design and structure their extracellular matrix into a complex 3D supracellular microenvironment that both i) matches the physical constraints of the host surface and ii) fulfills mechanical and biological functions. To do so, we adopt a top-down approach inspired by material science, which consists in:
- macroscopic spatiotemporal characterizations of tissue geometry and mechanics
- microscopic structural investigations of tissue organization
- computational modeling of biophysical laws involved in the emergence of tissue patterns
This strategy was applied to bone-like tissues cultured in macro-pores of different shapes and revealed that the geometry of a surface strongly influences both tissue growth kinetics and extracellular matrix organization. Indeed, geometry sets the boundary conditions of the mechanical environment that cells probe via mechanosensing, and respond to by assembling an extracellular matrix network aligned with the mechanical tensions (See research group of John Dunlop).
We are interested in extending these questions to a dynamic mechanical environment by taking benefits from our experience in designing tools for mechanical stimulation of living systems (See article on Active Substrates) and visualizing living tissues (See research group of Luca Bertinetti).
Today, our group mainly focuses on biofilms, which are tissue-like complex 3D structures made of biopolymers produced by bacteria. These adhesive living systems are known for their consequences on human health and antibiotics resistance, but they can also impair industrial processes by developing into pipelines. Understanding how these biological materials are built would help to design strategies to prevent their formation and favor their elimination.
In order to get insights into the principles of matrix architecture in biofilms, we study biofilms grown in various humidity conditions, geometrically constrained environments and/or lacking major matrix components.