Program for the 1st Center for Cell Dynamics Workshop

description   •   schedule   •   instructions   •   abstracts

August 18, 19, & 20 (2003) at Friday Harbor Labs
Organizers: George von Dassow, Ed Munro, and Clare Waterman-Storer

Cytomechanical Modules

This workshop will explore how the concept of modularity applies to the subcellular organization and dynamics of cytomechanical processes, and how this concept can unite microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of cell behavior, including motility and morphogenesis, the establishment of cell polarity, mitosis and cytokinesis, and other cytomechanical phenomena. (Here, "microscopic" means the molecular level and "macroscopic" means cell- or tissue-level description.) By module, we mean small subsets of molecular building blocks that conspire to form relatively autonomous, intermediate-scale entities, each with its own intrinsic properties.To the extent that we can articulate such modules as separable guilds in the cytomechanical environment, they make useful stepping-stones between the different levels of description that cell biologists work with.

Sessions will focus on relatively well-described candidate modules, and on fitting those modules into explanations of phenomena described at a larger scale of organization. We will focus on synthetic/speculative treatments rather than simple surveys of recent results, and on integrating the different native viewpoints of molecular/cell biology and biophysics/computational biology.

Topics and participants:


We want to look at candidate modules from three perspectives. First, to what extent do the entities cell biologists study – e.g. cytoplasmic microtubule arrays, cortical actin networks, focal adhesions, or intracellular signaling networks – constitute subcellular modules as defined above? To treat some entity as a module one has to identify its intrinsic behaviors and how these correspond to known biological functions, and deduce what set of core molecular participants and interactions endow a particular module with those essential behaviors. Second, from a macroscopic perspective, what properties of particular subcellular modules do we need to account for in order to explain whole-cell or tissue-level phenomena (e,g., viscoelasticity for the cortical cytoskeleton), and how do interactions among modules endow whole cells with large-scale behaviors, such as the ability to self-polarize or crawl? Third, what are the variational properties of subcellular modules, and to what extent can we explain diverse cellular behaviors by claiming that "the same" modules have been modified or co-opted to do similar jobs in different contexts?


The program will cover a selected handful of inter-related topics from as many perspectives as possible, while limiting the group to a small enough number that all of us get sufficient time to present and discuss our contribution. We plan a 3-day workshop consisting of six presentations/discussions per day with ample free time for informal discussions. Participants will circulate in advance an extended abstract or digest, richly illustrated, explaining the particular topic they expect to cover. This material, which will help us get up to speed on each other's interests and perspectives ahead of time, will be refined after the event and consolidated along with session transcripts into a web site and CD that summarizes the outcome of the workshop.

Contact information:

Center for Cell Dynamics, Friday Harbor Labs
620 University Road, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
(206) 616-0895; Fax: (206) 616-6804

Administrative coordinator: Charles Paxton (

Organizers: George von Dassow (; Ed Munro (; Clare Waterman-Storer (

For travel instructions and other information about the Friday Harbor Labs, please see

description   •   schedule   •   instructions   •   abstracts


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