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Issue 7, 2011
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Molecular motors stiffen non-affine semiflexible polymer networks

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Reconstituted filamentous actin networks with myosin motor proteins form active gels, in which motor proteins generate forces that drive the network far from equilibrium. This motor activity can also strongly affect the network elasticity; experiments have shown a dramatic stiffening in in vitro networks with molecular motors. Here we study the effects of motor generated forces on the mechanics of simulated 2D networks of athermal stiff filaments. We show how heterogeneous internal motor stresses can lead to stiffening in networks that are governed by filament bending modes. The motors are modeled as force dipoles that cause muscle like contractions. These contractions “pull out” the floppy bending modes in the system, which induces a cross-over to a stiffer stretching dominated regime. Through this mechanism, motors can lead to a nonlinear network response, even when the constituent filaments are themselves purely linear. These results have implications for the mechanics of living cells and suggest new design principles for active biomemetic materials with tunable mechanical properties.

Graphical abstract: Molecular motors stiffen non-affine semiflexible polymer networks

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Article information

16 Sep 2010
24 Jan 2011
First published
11 Feb 2011

Soft Matter, 2011,7, 3186-3191
Article type

Molecular motors stiffen non-affine semiflexible polymer networks

C. P. Broedersz and F. C. MacKintosh, Soft Matter, 2011, 7, 3186
DOI: 10.1039/C0SM01004A

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