From Molecular Interactions to Complex Mechanical Properties of Biopolymers

Francesco Pampaloni, Gianluca Lattanzi, Alexandr Jonas, Thomas Surrey, Erwin Frey, and Ernst-Ludwig Florin

Center of Nonlinear Dynamics and Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C1600, Austin, TX 78759, U.S.A.




Cytoskeleton filaments provide not only the structural support for the cell but fulfill many additional functions such as molecular transport or mechanical signal transduction. Their complex structural organization, which results from fine tuned molecular interactions, leads to unusual properties of these filaments on the cellular length scale. Microtubules, for instance, generate pushing forces on various length scale but their ends are still sufficiently flexible to search efficiently for binding partners on cellular membranes, a process essential for their function in cells. Our recent results provide first insight into how microtubules get their unique mechanical properties from a clever design of molecular interactions. This understanding may help us to fabricate new smart multifunctional materials in the future.