Dynamics of the Cellular Cytoskeleton

cells moving through a post array

The ability of animal cells to crawl, change their shape, and respond to applied force is due to their cytoskeleton: a dynamic, cross-linked network of actin protein filaments and myosin motors. Our lab has recently created a method to measure cytoskeletal motion, forces, and rheology with high precision and statistical power, using substrates containing arrays of flexible microscopic posts. Our most recent results show that motion of the cytoskeletal network is dominated by rare large events, and imply that future models of cytoskeletal dynamics may need to incorporate the concepts of jamming, self-organization and mechanical marginality, phenomena similar to that seen in avalanches and earthquakes.

Dissecting fat-tailed fluctuations in the cytoskeleton with active micropost arrays, Y. Shi, C. L. Porter, J. C. Crocker, and D. H. Reich, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 116, 13839-13846 (2019).