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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Feb 24;108(8):088101. Epub 2012 Feb 22.

Intermediate filaments in small configuration spaces.

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Institute for X-Ray Physics and Courant Research Centre Nano-Spectroscopy and X-Ray Imaging, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.


Intermediate filaments play a key role in cell mechanics. Apart from their great importance from a biomedical point of view, they also act as a very suitable micrometer-sized model system for semiflexible polymers. We perform a statistical analysis of the thermal fluctuations of individual filaments confined in microchannels. The small channel width and the resulting deflections at the walls give rise to a reduction of the configuration space by about 2 orders of magnitude. This circumstance enables us to precisely measure the intrinsic persistence length of vimentin intermediate filaments and to show that they behave as ideal wormlike chains; we observe that small fluctuations in perpendicular planes decouple. Furthermore, the inclusion of results for confined actin filaments demonstrates that the Odijk confinement regime is valid over at least 1 order of magnitude in persistence length.

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