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J Biomech. 2011 Jun 3;44(9):1776-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2011.04.012. Epub 2011 May 4.

Effect of tensile force on the mechanical behavior of actin filaments.

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Department of Biomechanics, Research Center for Nano Medical Engineering, Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Actin filaments are the most abundant components of the cellular cytoskeleton, and play critical roles in various cellular functions such as migration, division and shape control. In these activities, mechanical tension causes structural changes in the double-helical structure of the actin filament, which is a key modulator of cytoskeletal reorganization. This study performed large-scale molecular dynamics (MD) and steered MD simulations to quantitatively analyze the effects of tensile force on the mechanical behavior of actin filaments. The results revealed that when a tensile force of 200pN was applied to a filament consisting of 14 actin subunits, the twist angle of the filament decreased by approximately 20°, corresponding to a rotation of approximately -2° per subunit, representing a critical structural change in actin filaments. Based on these structural changes, the variance in filament length and twist angle was found to decrease, leading to increases in extensional and torsional stiffness. Torsional stiffness increased significantly under the tensile condition, and the ratio of filament stiffness under tensile force to that under no external force increased significantly on longer temporal scales. The results obtained from this study contribute to the understanding of mechano-chemical interactions concerning actin dynamics, showing that increased tensile force in the filament prevents actin regulatory proteins from binding to the filament.

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