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PLoS Biol. 2004 Dec;2(12):e412. Epub 2004 Nov 30.

In silico reconstitution of Listeria propulsion exhibits nano-saltation.

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Center for Cell Dynamics, University of Washington Friday Harbor, Washington, USA. <>


To understand how the actin-polymerization-mediated movements in cells emerge from myriad individual protein-protein interactions, we developed a computational model of Listeria monocytogenes propulsion that explicitly simulates a large number of monomer-scale biochemical and mechanical interactions. The literature on actin networks and L. monocytogenes motility provides the foundation for a realistic mathematical/computer simulation, because most of the key rate constants governing actin network dynamics have been measured. We use a cluster of 80 Linux processors and our own suite of simulation and analysis software to characterize salient features of bacterial motion. Our "in silico reconstitution" produces qualitatively realistic bacterial motion with regard to speed and persistence of motion and actin tail morphology. The model also produces smaller scale emergent behavior; we demonstrate how the observed nano-saltatory motion of L. monocytogenes,in which runs punctuate pauses, can emerge from a cooperative binding and breaking of attachments between actin filaments and the bacterium. We describe our modeling methodology in detail, as it is likely to be useful for understanding any subcellular system in which the dynamics of many simple interactions lead to complex emergent behavior, e.g., lamellipodia and filopodia extension, cellular organization, and cytokinesis.

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