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Evan Krystofiak, Ph.D.
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Hair cell mechanotransduction relies on a blood-endolymph barrier mediated by tight junctions. Tight junctions are a network of strands that seal the extracellular gap between adjacent cells. These strands are primarily composed of claudins but also include a number of other proteins. We are investigating the structural and dynamic properties of these strands to understand how they form such an effective barrier. Our current interests are in the dynamics of tight junction growth and rearrangement, how the claudin monomers polymerize to form strands, and how other proteins associated with tight junctions interact with claudin. We are addressing these outstanding questions using a combination of live-cell imaging, freeze fracture, and cryo-TEM.