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Biophys J. 2010 Aug 9;99(4):1043-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.06.001.

A microscopic formulation for the actin-driven motion of listeria in curved paths.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. ylin@hku.hk


Using a generalized Brownian ratchet model that accounts for the interactions of actin filaments with the surface of Listeria mediated by proteins like ActA and Arp2/3, we have developed a microscopic model for the movement of Listeria. Specifically, we show that a net torque can be generated within the comet tail, causing the bacteria to spin about its long axis, which in conjunction with spatially varying polymerization at the surface leads to motions of bacteria in curved paths that include circles, sinusoidal-like curves, translating figure eights, and serpentine shapes, as observed in recent experiments. A key ingredient in our formulation is the coupling between the motion of Listeria and the force-dependent rate of filament growth. For this reason, a numerical scheme was developed to determine the kinematic parameters of motion and stress distribution among filaments in a self-consistent manner. We find that a 5-15% variation in polymerization rates can lead to radii of curvatures of the order of 4-20 microm, measured in experiments. In a similar way, our results also show that most of the observed trajectories can be produced by a very low degree of correlation, <10%, among filament orientations. Since small fluctuations in polymerization rate, as well as filament orientation, can easily be induced by various factors, our findings here provide a reasonable explanation for why Listeria can travel along totally different paths under seemingly identical experimental conditions. Besides trajectories, stress distributions corresponding to different polymerization profiles are also presented. We have found that although some actin filaments generate propelling forces that push the bacteria forward, others can exert forces opposing the movement of Listeria, consistent with recent experimental observations.

2010 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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