Alexander Bershadsky

Principal Investigator, MBI


labsite: Actin Biomechanics and Cell Dynamics Lab (ABCD)

Professor, the Joseph Moss Chair of Biomedical Research, Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science

Studies how cells move, and the physical forces necessary for cells to attach themselves to the substrate and to one another. In exploring the points of contact, which act as mechanical “sensors” that provide the cell with information about its environment and determine its behaviour, he has learned that in cancer cells, the activity of these “sensors” is disrupted, which likely accounts for the cell’s difficulty in adhering to substrates and, consequently, their greater mobility.

Prof Bershadsky’s research interests include the mechanisms of cell motility and intracellular traffic, cytoskeleton dynamics, and the crosstalk between cytoskeleton and cell adhesion. The studies from Bershadsky’s laboratory were among the first in which the phenomenon of adhesion-dependent mechanosensitivity was discovered and demonstrated. These studies showed that focal adhesions function as miniature mechanosensors, because their assembly depends on the application of external or cell-generated pulling forces. The aim of the present studies is to clarify the mechanisms involved in the adhesion dependent mechanosensitivity. Other studies from Bershadsky’s lab address the functions of microtubules in the regulation of cell motility and adhesion. His sphere of interest includes the proteins formins as potent regulators of actin assembly and actin-microtubule crosstalk.


Prof Bershadsky graduated from Moscow State University, and received his Ph.D. at the Cancer Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, under the guidance of Prof Juri Vasiliev. In 1988, together with Prof Vasiliev, he published a book entitled, Cytoskeleton (Plenum Press), which became known as the first textbook in this field of research. Prof Bershadsky moved to Israel in 1992, and since then has worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science, first as Scientist, and subsequently as Senior Scientist, Associate Professor, and Full Professor. He holds the Joseph Moss Professorial Chair in Biomedical Research (2001). Prof Bershadsky worked as a visiting professor at the Curie Institute in Paris in 2005, at the Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole, USA, in 2007, and at NUS, in 2008–2010. Since 2001, he is an Editorial Board Member of the international journal of “Cytoskeleton” (formerly “Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton”).

Tee YH, Shemesh T, Thiagarajan V, Hariadi RF, Anderson KL, Page C, Volkmann N, Hanein D, Sivaramakrishnan S, Kozlov MM, Bershadsky AD. Cellular chirality arising from the self-organization of the actin cytoskeleton. Nature Cell Biology, 2015 doi: 10.1038/ncb3137.

Low BC, Pan CQ, Shivashankar GV, Bershadsky A, Sudol M, Sheetz M: YAP/TAZ as mechanosensors and mechanotransducers in regulating organ size and tumor growth. FEBS Lett. 2014, 588(16):2663-70.

Yu CH, Rafiq NB, Krishnasamy A, Hartman KL, Jones GE, Bershadsky AD, Sheetz MP: Integrin-matrix clusters form podosome-like adhesions in the absence of traction forces. Cell Rep. 2013, 5(5):1456-68.

Luo W, Yu CH, Lieu ZZ, Allard J, Mogilner A, Sheetz MP, Bershadsky AD: Analysis of the local organization and dynamics of cellular actin networks. J Cell Biol. 2013, 202(7):1057-73.

Prager-Khoutorsky M, Lichtenstein A, Krishnan R, Rajendran K, Mayo A, Kam Z, Geiger B, Bershadsky AD: Fibroblast polarization is a matrix-rigidity-dependent process controlled by focal adhesion mechanosensing. Nat Cell Biol. 2011, 13(12):1457-65.

Zilberman Y, Alieva NO, Miserey-Lenkei S, Lichtenstein A, Kam Z, Sabanay H, Bershadsky A: Involvement of the Rho-mDia1 pathway in the regulation of Golgi complex architecture and dynamics. Mol Biol Cell. 2011, 22(16):2900-11.

Lim CT, Bershadsky A, Sheetz MP: Mechanobiology. J R Soc Interface. 2010 Jun 6;7 Suppl 3:S291-3.

Zilberman Y, Ballestrem C, Carramusa L, Mazitschek R, Khochbin S, Bershadsky A: Regulation of microtubule dynamics by inhibition of the tubulin deacetylase HDAC6. J Cell Sci 2009, 122:3531-3541.

Shemesh T, Verkhovsky AB, Svitkina TM, Bershadsky AD, Kozlov MM: Role of focal adhesions and mechanical stresses in the formation and progression of the lamellum interface. Biophys J 2009, 97:1254-1264.

Wolfenson H, Henis YI, Geiger B, Bershadsky AD: The heel and toe of the cell’s foot: A multifaceted approach for understanding the structure and dynamics of focal adhesions. Cell Motil Cytoskeleton 2009, 66:1017-1029.

Cinnamon Y, Feine O, Hochegger H, Bershadsky A, Brandeis M: Cellular contractility requires ubiquitin mediated proteolysis. PLoS One 2009, 4:e6155.

Bershadsky AD and Vasiliev JM (1988) Cytoskeleton. Plenum Publishing Corporation, New York and London. p.298.