Terasaki Ramps: A Glimpse into the Geometrical Architecture of the Cell
April 1, 2016 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics - University of California, Santa Barbara
Biologists have long considered the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to be an exceedingly important and complex intracellular organelle in eukaryotes (like you!). It is a membrane structure, part folded sheet, part branching network, that both envelopes the nucleus and threads its way outward, all the way to the cell’s periphery. Microscopic images attest to its convoluted geometry, but can the complexity of its architecture be understood in a precise, mathematical way? Recently, refined imaging of the ER has revealed beautiful and subtle geometrical forms – "Terasaki ramps'' -- suggestive of Riemann sheets and helical minimal surfaces. What is the physics of these structures, and how do these fantastical architectural motifs connect to biological function?