Elastic Actin Networks

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1207
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1207m

The protein actin forms a key part of the cytoskeletal network in cells, which helps to organize and maintain the cell's shape. The mechanical properties of the protein, which can form cross-linked networks, is not known, but is of importance in understanding how cells respond to mechanical deformation. Most binding proteins also impart flexibility on the cross-linked network, which makes it hard to isolate the contribution of the actin. Gardel et al. (p. 1301) use scruin, an actin-binding protein that forms rigid, permanent bonds, to both cross-link and bundle the actin filaments and thus isolate and account for the mechanical properties of the actin network. They find remarkable changes to the rheological properties, with sudden orders-of-magnitude changes in the elastic modulus when the network forms at critical scruin concentrations.

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