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Elias Puchner

PAN 413 (office), 6123012326
PAN 481 (lab)
epuchner @

Elias Puchner.jpg


Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota, School of Physics and Astronomy 2014-present
Postdoctoral fellow in the group of Prof. Wendell Lim, UCSF, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Institute for Quantitative Bioscience 2010-2014
Postdoc in the group of Prof. Hermann Gaub, LMU Munich, Applied Physics 2008-2009
PhD in physics/biophysics in the group of Prof. Hermann Gaub, LMU Munich and International Doctorate Program NanoBiotechnology. grade "summa cum laude" 2006-2008

Awards and Activities

Guest editor FEBS (2013-2014)
Session chair Winter q-bio Conference, Hawaii (2014)
Postdoctoral research fellowship German Research Foundation (2010-2012)
Attocube Wittenstein Research Award (2008)
Publication price Center for NanoScience, Munich (2008 and 2010)
Reviewer activities: NSF, ACS Nano, Biophysical Journal, Journal of Molecular Biology, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Analytical Chemistry, Journal of Molecular Recognition.

Summary of Interests
Cellular and molecular biophysics, cell- and synthetic biology. Single molecule and super-resolution microscopy (PALM/STORM). Single molecule force spectroscopy (AFM). [Research Web Page]

About My Work

Our lab employs and further develops modern biophysical techniques to study cellular processes with high precision and detail.

Living cells have the remarkable ability to sense environmental signals such as physical force or small molecules. This information is processed by intracellular signaling networks, which allow a cell to respond to the stimulus. Our research at the intersection of physics and biology aims to understand how these cellular signaling processes are regulated on different hierarchical length-scales by employing and further developing single molecule and super-resolution microscopy techniques.

On a mesoscopic length scale signaling proteins can self-assemble to complexes and intracellular organelles. We employ recently developed quantitative super-resolution microscopy to resolve these structures inside cells below the optical diffraction limit and to measure their biomolecular composition. This characterization allows to detect changes as organelles mature and to follow spatial re-arrangements of signaling proteins in response to stimuli. A particular focus of our lab is to investigate if and how such spatial re-arrangements can modulate the signaling strength of pathways.

On the nanoscopic length scale the activity of individual proteins can be regulated by conformational changes that are induced by binding reactions, covalent modifications or physical force. Such conformational changes that take place on a nm length scale and involve forces in the piconewton range can be dynamically investigated with atomic-force microscopy (AFM) based single molecule force spectroscopy.

Lab Members and Advisees

Elizabeth Smith, Postdoctoral Researcher
Maria Paz Ramirez Lopez, Researcher
Ragnar Stefansson, Graduate Student
Santosh Adhikari, Graduate Student
Angel Mancebo, Graduate Student
Luke DeMars, Undergraduate Student
Zhixian Han, Undergraduate Student
Lucy Chen, Undergraduate Student

Former Lab Members

Christopher Ertsgaard, Undergraduate Student
Jack Lange, Undergraduate Student
Dong Wang, Undergraduate Student
Mark Howard, NSF Research Experience for Teachers (RET)

Selected Publications

Wu CY, Roybal KT, Puchner EM, Onuffer J and Lim WA, Remote control of therapeutic T cells through a small molecule–gated chimeric receptor, Science 350, 6258 (2015) [abstract]

Sydor MS, Czymmek KJ, Puchner EM*, Mennella V*, Super-Resolution Microscopy: From Single Molecules to Supramolecular Assemblies, Trends in Cell Biology, DOI: (2015) [abstract]

Editor: Elias M. Puchner, Bo Huang, Hermann E. Gaub, Wilhelm Just, Single molecule techniques - Applications in biology, FEBS Letters Special Issue 588(19 ), 3519-3648 (2014) [abstract]

Puchner EM, Walter JM, Kasper R, Huang B, and Lim WA, Counting molecules in single organelles with superresolution microscopy allows tracking of the endosome maturation trajectory, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 110, 16015 (2013) [abstract]

Puchner EM and Gaub HE, Single-Molecule Mechanoenzymatics, Annual Review of Biophysics 41, 497-518 (2012) [abstract]

Stahl SW, Puchner EM, Alexandrovich A, Gautel M, and Gaub HE, A conditional gating mechanism assures the integrity of the molecular force-sensor titin kinase, Biophysical journal 101, 1978-86 (2011) [abstract]

Puchner EM and Gaub HE , Exploring the conformation-regulated function of titin kinase by mechanical pump and probe experiments with single molecules, Angewandte Chemie 49, 1147-50 (2010) [abstract]

Puchner EM, and Gaub HE, Force and function: probing proteins with AFM-based force spectroscopy, Current Opinion in Structural Biology 19, 605-14 (2009). [abstract]

Stahl SW, Puchner EM, and Gaub HE, Photothermal cantilever actuation for fast single-molecule force spectroscopy, Review of scientific instruments 80, 073702 (2009) [abstract]

Kufer SK, Puchner EM, Gumpp H, Liedl T, and Gaub HE, Single-molecule cut-and-paste surface assembly, Science 319, 594-6 (2008) [abstract]

Puchner EM, Alexandrovich A, Kho AL, Hensen U, Schafer LV, Brandmeier B, Grater F, Grubmuller H, Gaub HE, and Gautel M, Mechanoenzymatics of titin kinase, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 105, 13385-90 (2008) [abstract]

Puchner EM, Franzen G, Gautel M, and Gaub HE, Comparing proteins by their unfolding pattern, Biophysical Journal 95, 426-34 (2008) [abstract]

Puchner EM, Kufer SK, Strackharn M, Stahl SW, and Gaub HE, Nanoparticle self-assembly on a DNA-scaffold written by single-molecule cut-and-paste, Nano Letters 8, 3692-5 (2008) [abstract]


Ph.D. University of Munich, 2008
Dipl. Phys. (M.S.) University of Munich, 2006