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Biophys J. 2015 Oct 20;109(8):1574-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.08.034.

Cytoskeletal Network Morphology Regulates Intracellular Transport Dynamics.

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Department of Physics, University of California, Merced, California.
Department of Physics, University of California, Merced, California; School of Mathematics, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California; Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California. Electronic address:
Department of Physics, University of California, Merced, California. Electronic address:


Intracellular transport is essential for maintaining proper cellular function in most eukaryotic cells, with perturbations in active transport resulting in several types of disease. Efficient delivery of critical cargos to specific locations is accomplished through a combination of passive diffusion and active transport by molecular motors that ballistically move along a network of cytoskeletal filaments. Although motor-based transport is known to be necessary to overcome cytoplasmic crowding and the limited range of diffusion within reasonable timescales, the topological features of the cytoskeletal network that regulate transport efficiency and robustness have not been established. Using a continuum diffusion model, we observed that the time required for cellular transport was minimized when the network was localized near the nucleus. In simulations that explicitly incorporated network spatial architectures, total filament mass was the primary driver of network transit times. However, filament traps that redirect cargo back to the nucleus caused large variations in network transport. Filament polarity was more important than filament orientation in reducing average transit times, and transport properties were optimized in networks with intermediate motor on and off rates. Our results provide important insights into the functional constraints on intracellular transport under which cells have evolved cytoskeletal structures, and have potential applications for enhancing reactions in biomimetic systems through rational transport network design.

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