Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Lab Mechanobiology


Professor Boris Martinac, Head of Mechanobiology Laboratory

"I worked day and night for years on this discovery. There's nothing more exciting than understanding how this world works and I'm very proud of this breakthrough."

- Professor Boris Martinac

Professor Boris Martinac

Head, Mechanobiology Laboratory

Research Overview

Research Areas

  • Structure and function of mechanosensitive ion channels
  • Lipid - mechanosensitive channel interactions
  • Mechano-electric feedback in the heart
  • Mechanosensory transduction in chondrocytes
  • Membrane mechanics

Research Overview

Research in the Martinac laboratory focuses on ion-channel mediated mechanosensory transduction processes in living cells from bacteria to humans. Mechanosensitive ion channels have been identified as the primary molecular transducers of mechanical force that function in diverse physiological processes, including touch, hearing, blood pressure regulation and bone development. It has been recognised that aberrant mechanosensitive ion channels contribute to the pathology of disease, including heart dysfunction and osteoarthritis, which are specific research topics the Martinac Laboratory are working on. The laboratory works on these topics because there is currently a limited understanding of the role these ion channels play in causing heart and cardiovascular disease and understanding what happens when heart cells are stretched, for example during heart failure or when a patient has high blood pressure.

Professor Martinac and his team are working on which role mechanosensitive ion channels play in mechano-electrical transduction in chondrocytes, the cells responsible for the homeostatic maintenance of cartilage, a resilient and flexible connective tissue that covers and protects the ends of bones at the joints. In addition, they study bacterial mechanosensitive channels, which have over many years been established as excellent models of molecular mechanisms underlying mechanotransduction in living organisms.

Research Projects

There are 4 key projects underway in the Mechanobiology Laboratory, led by Professor Boris Martinac;

1. Unravelling mechanotransduction pathways in the heart

The aim of this project is to identify a physiological link between cardiac pressure overload and TRP-type ion channels, which may reveal a molecular origin of cardiac remodelling that promotes hypertrophy and arrhythmogenesis.

2. Molecular force sensing mechanisms of Piezo mechanosensitive ion channels

This project focuses on the structure and function of recently identified family of Piezo mechanosensitive channels, which play a crucial role in senses of touch, pain and blood-pressure regulation. The aim of the project is to uncover how different lipids, cytoskeletal proteins and extracellular matrix modulate and alter the function of Piezo channels.

3. Mechanoelectrical transduction in chondrocytes

This project aims to elucidate the contribution of Piezo1 and TRPV4 ion channels to chondrocyte mechanotransduction in mice. It investigates the impact of the cytoskeleton and structure of the extracellular matrix on chondrocyte mechanotransduction to determine the link between the TRPV4/Piezo1-mediated and integrin-mediated mechanotransduction.

4. Biophysics of bacterial MS channels MscL, MscS and MscCG

This project aims to elucidate how mechanosensitive channel proteins of different architecture translate mechanical force transmitted through the membrane lipid bilayer into MS channel protein conformational changes, which is currently an outstanding question of high significance for the mechanotransduction research field.

Laboratory Members & Collaborators

Lab Members

Paul Rohde, Laboratory Manager

Jane Yu, Senior Research Scientist

Yoshitaka Nakayama, Senior Postdoctoral Scientist

Valentin Romanov, Postdoctoral Scientist

Zijing Zhou, Postdoctoral Scientist

Hutao Gong, PhD Student

Yang Guo, PhD Student

Cristobal dos Remedios, Research Scientist (Visiting)



Prof Michael P Feneley

Prof Robert M Graham

Prof Diane Fatkin

Dr Charles Cox

Dr Adam Hill


Robert Parton, University of New South Wales

Dr Matthew Baker, University of New South Wales

Dr Joshua Chou, UTS

A/Prof Shireen Lamande, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Prof , IMB University of Queensland

Prof Glenn King, IMB University of Queensland

Prof Rodney Croft, University of Wollongong

Prof Derek Laver, University of Newcastle

Dr Nazim Khan, University of Western Australia

A/Prof Ben Corry, The Australian National University

A/Prof Luke Johnson, University of Tasmania, Launceston

Dr Andrew Battle, Queensland University of Technology


Prof Eduardo Perozo, University of Chicago, USA

Prof Philip Gottlieb, SUNY Buffalo, USA

Prof Frederick Sachs, SUNY Buffalo, USA

Prof Oliver Friedrich, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

Prof Janet Wood, University of Guelph, Canada

Prof Hisashi Kawasaki, Tokyo Denki University, Japan

Prof Masahiro Sokabe, University of Nagoya, Japan

Prof Anne Ulrich and Dr Stephan Grage, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

A/Prof Massimo Vassalli, CNR Genova, UK

A/Pro Valeria Vasque,z University of Tennessee, USA

Prof David Krizaj, University of Utah, USA

Dr Radomir Slavchov, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Prog Thomas Walz, Rockefeller University, New York, USA

Dr Evgeny Petrov, Tomsk State University, Tomsk, Russia

Publication Highlights

  1. Guo, Y., Yu, Z-Y., Wu, J., Gong, H., Kesteven, S., Iismaa, S.E., Chan, A.Y., Holman, S., Pinto, S., Pironet, A., Cox, C.D., Graham, R.M., Vennekens, R., Feneley, M.P. & Martinac, B. (2021) The Ca2+-activated cation channel TRPM4 is a positive regulator of pressure overload-induced cardiac hypertrophy. eLife 10, e66582.
  2. Zhang, Y., Daday, C., Gu, R.-X., Cox, C.D., Martinac, B., de Groot, B.L & Walz, T. (2021) Nature 590 (7846), 509-514.
  3. Cox, C.D., Zhang, Y., Zhou, Z., Walz, T & Martinac, B. (2021) Cyclodextrins increase membrane tension and are universal activators of mechanosensitive channels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 118 (36): e2104820118.
  4. Romanov, V., Silvani, G., Zhu, H., Cox, C.D. & Martinac, B. (2021) An Acoustic Platform for Single‐Cell, High‐Throughput Measurements of the Viscoelastic Properties of Cells. Small 17(3), 2005759.
  5. Ridone, P., Pandzic, E., Vassalli, M., Cox, C. D., Macmillan, A., Gottlieb, P. A., & Martinac, B. (2020). Disruption of membrane cholesterol organization impairs the activity of PIEZO1 channel clusters. The Journal of General Physiology, 152(8).
  6. Nikolaev, Y. A., Cox, C. D., Ridone, P., Rohde, P. R., Cordero-Morales, J. F., Vásquez, V., Laver, D.R. & Martinac, B. (2019). Mammalian TRP ion channels are insensitive to membrane stretch. Journal of Cell Science, 132(23).
  7. Cox, C. D., Bavi, N., & Martinac, B. (2019). Biophysical Principles of Ion-Channel-Mediated Mechanosensory Transduction. Cell Reports, 29(1), 1-12.
  8. Nakayama, Y., Komazawa, K., Bavi, N., Hashimoto, K. I., Kawasaki, H., & Martinac, B. (2018). Evolutionary specialization of MscCG, an MscS-like mechanosensitive channel, in amino acid transport in Corynebacterium glutamicum. Scientific Reports, 8(1): 12893.
  9. Ridone, P., Grage, S. L., Patkunarajah, A., Battle, A. R., Ulrich, A. S., & Martinac, B. (2018). “Force-from-lipids” gating of mechanosensitive channels modulated by PUFAs. Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, 79: 158-167.
  10. Martinac, A. D., Bavi, N., Bavi, O., & Martinac, B. (2017). Pulling MscL open via N-terminal and TM1 helices: A computational study towards engineering an MscL nanovalve. PLoS ONE, 12(8).
  11. Rosholm, K. R., Baker, M. A. B., Ridone, P., Nakayama, Y., Rohde, P. R., Cuello, L. G., Lee, L.K. & Martinac, B. (2017). Activation of the mechanosensitive ion channel MscL by mechanical stimulation of supported Droplet-Hydrogel bilayers. Scientific Reports, 7.
  12. Syeda, R., Florendo, M. N., Cox, C. D., Kefauver, J. M., Santos, J. S., Martinac, B., & Patapoutian, A. (2016). Piezo1 Channels Are Inherently Mechanosensitive. Cell Reports, 17(7), 1739-1746.
  13. Bavi, N., Cortes, D. M., Cox, C. D., Rohde, P. R., Liu, W., Deitmer, J. W., Bavi, O., Strop, P., Hill, A.P., Rees, D., Corry, B., Perozo, E. & Martinac, B. (2016). The role of MscL amphipathic N terminus indicates a blueprint for bilayer-mediated gating of mechanosensitive channels. Nature Communications, 7.
  14. Cox, C. D., Bae, C., Ziegler, L., Hartley, S., Nikolova-Krstevski, V., Rohde, P. R., Ng, C.-A., Sachs, F., Gottlieb, P.A. & Martinac, B. (2016). Removal of the mechanoprotective influence of the cytoskeleton reveals PIEZO1 is gated by bilayer tension. Nature Communications, 7.
  15. Nomura, T., Cox, C. D., Bavi, N., Sokabe, M., & Martinac, B. (2015). Unidirectional incorporation of a bacterial mechanosensitive channel into liposomal membranes. FASEB Journal, 29(10), 4334-4345.
Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years