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Biophys J. 2010 Jun 16;98(12):2923-32. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.03.023.

Mechanics of Vorticella contraction.

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Chemical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA.


Vorticella convallaria is one of a class of fast-moving organisms that can traverse its body size in less than a millisecond by rapidly coiling a slender stalk anchoring it to a nearby surface. The stalk houses a fiber called the spasmoneme, which winds helically within the stalk and rapidly contracts in response to calcium signaling. We have developed a coupled mechanical-chemical model of the coiling process, accounting for the coiling of the elastic stalk and the binding of calcium to the protein spasmin. Simulations of the model describe the contraction and recovery processes quantitatively. The stalk-spasmoneme system is shown to satisfy geometric constraints, which explains why the cell body sometimes rotates during contraction. The shape of the collapsing and recovering stalk bounds its effective bending stiffness. Simulations suggest that recovery from the contracted state is driven by the stalk at a rate controlled by dissociation of calcium from spasmin.

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