Helical twist controls the thickness of F-actin bundles

M.M.A.E. Claessens, C. Semmrich, L. Ramos, A.R. Bausch

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106 Citations (Scopus)
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In the presence of condensing agents such as nonadsorbing polymer, multivalent counter ions, and specific bundling proteins, chiral biopolymers typically form bundles with a finite thickness, rather than phase-separating into a polymer-rich phase. Although short-range repulsive interactions or geometrical frustrations are thought to force the equilibrium bundle size to be limited, the precise mechanism is yet to be resolved. The importance of the tight control of biopolymer bundle size is illustrated by the ubiquitous cytoskeletal actin filament bundles that are crucial for the proper functioning of cells. Using an in vitro model system, we show that size control relies on a mismatch between the helical structure of individual actin filaments and the geometric packing constraints within bundles. Small rigid actin-binding proteins change the twist of filamentous actin (F-actin) in a concentration-dependent manner, resulting in small, well defined bundle thickness up to ≈20 filaments, comparable to those found in filopodia. Other F-actin cross-linking proteins can subsequently link these small, well organized bundles into larger structures of several hundred filaments, comparable to those found in, for example, Drosophila bristles. The energetic tradeoff between filament twisting and cross-linker binding within a bundle is suggested as a fundamental mechanism by which cells can precisely adjust bundle size and strength.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8819-8822
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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