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Biophys J. 2008 Jan 15;94(2):688-93. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Micro- and macrorheological properties of isotropically cross-linked actin networks.

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Lehrstuhl für Biophysik, Technische Universität München, Garching, Germany.


Cells make use of semiflexible biopolymers such as actin or intermediate filaments to control their local viscoelastic response by dynamically adjusting the concentration and type of cross-linking molecules. The microstructure of the resulting networks mainly determines their mechanical properties. It remains an important challenge to relate structural transitions to both the molecular properties of the cross-linking molecules and the mechanical response of the network. This can be achieved best by well defined in vitro model systems in combination with microscopic techniques. Here, we show that with increasing concentrations of the cross-linker heavy meromyosin, a transition in the mechanical network response occurs. At low cross-linker densities the network elasticity is dominated by the entanglement length l(e) of the polymer, whereas at high heavy meromyosin densities the cross-linker distance l(c) determines the elastic behavior. Using microrheology the formation of heterogeneous networks is observed at low cross-linker concentrations. Micro- and macrorheology both report the same transition to a homogeneous cross-linked phase. This transition is set by a constant average cross-linker distance l(c) approximately 15 microm. Thus, the micro- and macromechanical properties of isotropically cross-linked in vitro actin networks are determined by only one intrinsic network parameter.

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