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Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Oct 9;103(15):158102. Epub 2009 Oct 9.

Spontaneous oscillations of a minimal actomyosin system under elastic loading.

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Laboratoire Physico-Chimie Curie, CNRS, Institut Curie, UPMC; 26 rue d'Ulm, F-75248 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Spontaneous mechanical oscillations occur in various types of biological systems where groups of motor molecules are elastically coupled to their environment. By using an optical trap to oppose the gliding motion of a single bead-tailed actin filament over a substrate densely coated with myosin motors, we mimicked this condition in vitro. We show that this minimal actomyosin system can oscillate spontaneously. Our finding accords quantitatively with a general theoretical framework where oscillatory instabilities emerge generically from the collective dynamics of molecular motors under load.

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