Speaker: Fred MacKintosh (Rice University)
Title: Contractility, structure formation and fluctuations in active gels, with and without molecular motors
Abstract: Various processes in living cells depend on contractile forces that are often generated by myosin motors in concert with polar actin filaments. A textbook example of this is the actomyosin contractile ring that forms during cell division. Recent evidence, however, has begun to suggest alternate or redundant mechanisms that do not depend on myosin. Experiments on simplified, reconstituted systems also point to contractility and structure formation in disordered, apolar arrays of filaments. We propose a motor-free mechanism that can generate contraction in biopolymer networks without the need for motors such as myosin or polar filaments such as actin. This mechanism is based on active binding and unbinding of cross-linkers that breaks the principle of detailed balance, together with the asymmetric force-extension response of semiflexible biopolymers. We discuss the resulting force-velocity relation and other implications of this, as well as possible evidence for non-motor force generation.