The Alushin lab will explore how cells sense and respond to mechanical force. Mechanical cues guide many cell processes, including those involved in development and immunity, and altered responses to tension and pressure are found in many cancers. One of the main sensors of mechanical perturbation is actin, a protein that forms a dynamic network of filamentous bundles beneath the cell membrane. Recently, our lab developed a cutting-edge microscopic technique for monitoring—on an atomic level—how actin filaments change shape in response to force. We have discovered that both tension and compression elicit conformational transitions in actin filaments. Now, combining this approach with sophisticated methods in biochemistry and protein engineering, we will measure the force needed to produce these structural changes and determine whether strained actin attracts a different set of binding partners to propagate the mechanical signal throughout the cell. Our findings could point toward novel therapies for regulating mechanical signal transduction in cancer or immunity.