Volkswagen Foundation, Life Program
One of the key steps in evolution was the development of multicellular animals (Metazoa) from unicellular organisms over 600 million years ago. While much research has focused on the molecular pathways required for morphogenesis and intercellular communication, one crucial aspect has largely been ignored: the necessity to cope with increased physical forces that arise in tissues of multicellular organisms. This project hypothesizes that structures characteristic to Metazoans have evolved to maintain the physical integrity of animal cells and thus are key in the development of multicellular life.
Pathogenic amoebae are the causative agents of many severe diseases, including amoebiasis, amoebic encephalitis and amoebic keratitis. Most of these diseases can be avoided by implementing strict hygiene, but even in developed countries diseases caused by amoeboe occur and can lead to severe infections with high psychological strain for the patients. Amoebae of the Entamoeba species are found in animals and humans as internal parasites. Due to the relevance of trogocytosis in Entamoeba, it has been suggested that amoeba-exerted forces play a major role in extracellular matrix and target-cell destruction.