Morphodynamics of Immune Cells

Michael Sixt

Michael Sixt's laboratory is interested in morphodynamic processes both at the cellular and at the tissue level. We mainly focus on the immune system and try to understand the molecular and mechanical principles underlying leukocyte dynamics during processes such as migration and intercellular communication. Here we work at the interface of cell biology, immunology and biophysics and currently investigate how the cytoskeleton generates force to deform the cell body, how this force is transduced to the extracellular environment and how the cells are polarized and guided within tissues. To obtain a holistic view of the process we are also studying tissue architecture as well as the distribution and presentation of guidance cues (chemokines) within these tissues. We developed a number of in vitro tools that allow us to observe cytoskeletal dynamics in real time using different life cell imaging approaches. These are all based on advanced light microscopy like total internal reflection, fast confocal and multiphoton technology. We combine these approaches with genetic and pharmacological interference as well as substrate manipulations like surface micropatterning and microfluidics. A general aim of the lab is to test in vitro findings also in the context of living tissues.  To this end we also developed ex vivo (tissue explant) and in vivo imaging setups that allow us to monitor leukocytes together with their physiological environment. Finally we are also interested to test the implications of our findings for physiological immune responses.

Michael Sixt
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-3801

CV and publicaton list

Sixt Group website

Agnieszka Rowinska

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1148


  • Jonna Alanko, Postdoc
  • Frank Assen, PhD student
  • Alessandra Casano, Postdoc
  • Ingrid de Vries, Technician
  • Florian Gärtner, Postdoc
  • Aglaja Kopf, PhD Student
  • Alexander Leithner, PhD Student
  • Maria Nemethova, Technician
  • Jörg Renkawitz, Postdoc
  • Anne Reversat, Postdoc
  • Julian Stopp, PhD Student
  • Saren Taskiyan, PhD Student
  • Kathrin Tomasek, PhD Student (jointly with Guet Group)

    Current Projects

    • Environmental control of leukocyte migration
      We are investigating how different extracellular constraints like the form of chemokine presentation, mechanical forces and the geometry and molecular composition of the extracellular substrate, affect leukocyte locomotion.
    • Cellular force generation and transduction
      We ask how cytoskeletal activity is translated into actual locomotion. This includes transmembrane force coupling receptors but also locomotion by other means like physical deformation of the cell body.
    • Invasion of tissue barriers
      How do leukocytes traverse tissue boundaries like endothelial / epithelial layers and extracellular matrix

    Selected Publications

    • Mueller J, Szep G, Nemethova M, de Vries I, Lieber AD, Winkler C, Kruse K, Small JV, Schmeiser C, Keren K, Hauschild R, Sixt M. Load Adaptation of Lamellipodial Actin Networks. Cell. 2017 Aug 29.
    • Leithner A, Eichner A, Müller J, Reversat A, Brown M, Schwarz J, Merrin J, de Gorter DJ, Schur F, Bayerl J, de Vries I, Wieser S, Hauschild R, Lai FP, Moser M, Kerjaschki D, Rottner K, Small JV, Stradal TE, Sixt M. Diversified actin protrusions promote environmental exploration but are dispensable for locomotion of leukocytes. Nat Cell Biol. 2016 Nov
    • Kiermaier E, Moussion C, Veldkamp CT, Gerardy-Schahn R, de Vries I, Williams LG, Chaffee GR, Phillips AJ, Freiberger F, Imre R, Taleski D, Payne RJ, Braun A, Förster R, Mechtler K, Mühlenhoff M, Volkman BF, Sixt M. Polysialylation controls dendritic cell trafficking by regulating chemokine recognition. Science. 2016 Jan 8


    Since June 1, 2014 Vice President of IST Austria
    Since 2013 Professor, IST Austria
    2010-2013 Assistant Professor, IST Austria
    2008-2010 Endowed Professor, Peter Hans Hofschneider Foundation for Experimental Biomedicine
    2005-2010 Group Leader, Max-Planck Institute, Martinsried, Germany
    2003-2005 Postdoc, Institute for Experimental Pathology, Lund, Sweden
    2003 MD, University of Erlangen, Germany
    2002 Full approbation in human medicine

    Selected Distinctions

    2016 ERC Consolidator Grant
    2014 Elected EMBO Member
    2013 European Biophysical Societies Association Young Investigator Medal
    2013 Elected member of the "Junge Kurie" (Young Academy) of the Austrian Acadamy of Sciences (ÖAW)
    2012 Iganz L. Lieben Award
    2011 ERC Starting Grant
    2011 FWF START Award
    2008 Endowed Professor of Peter Hans Hofschneider Foundation
    2003 Novartis Dissertation Award

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