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ResearchVan Swinderen Institute

Physics: Dr. G. Koenderink, AMOLF Amsterdam: Non-equilibrium dynamics of biopolymer networks driven by molecular motors


28 February 2008 FWN-Building 5111.0080, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG, Groningen
Speaker: Physics: Dr. Gijsje Koenderink
Affiliation: AMOLF Amsterdam
Title: Non-equilibrium dynamics of biopolymer networks driven by molecular motors
Date: 28-02-2008
Start: 16.00
Location: FWN-Building 5111.0080


Living cells are active soft materials in which non-equilibrium driving forces lead to shape changes, contractility, and migration. To elucidate the physical origin of these active material properties, we reconstitute simple model systems from purified cytoskeletal proteins. I will show that model systems of filamentous actin exhibit active internal stress fluctuations and active stiffening upon addition of myosin II motors. The myosin motors use chemical energy to generate directional forces on the actin filaments to slide filaments past one another. In uncrosslinked networks, this leads to transient contractile stresses. These are apparent when microtubules, cytoskeletal filaments with a persistence length of 1 mm, are embedded in the actin network. In the presence of processive myosin thick filaments, the microtubules display large, non-thermal bending fluctuations. These reveal transverse forces of 10-20 pN originating from local network contractions. Even though the myosin motors are processive, they generate random stress fluctuations because they transiently bind and then collectively release. When the actin filaments are cross-linked with an actin-binding protein such as filamin A, myosin contractile forces generate an internal stress that drives the network into a non-linear, stress-stiffened regime. These findings shed light on physical design principles of the living cytoskeleton.

Last modified:12 September 2014 11.21 a.m.