Origin of twist-bend coupling in actin filaments

Enrique M. De La Cruz, Jeremy Roland, Brannon R McCullough, Laurent Blanchoin, Jean Louis Martiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Actin filaments are semiflexible polymers that display large-scale conformational twisting and bending motions. Modulation of filament bending and twisting dynamics has been linked to regulatory actin-binding protein function, filament assembly and fragmentation, and overall cell motility. The relationship between actin filament bending and twisting dynamics has not been evaluated. The numerical and analytical experiments presented here reveal that actin filaments have a strong intrinsic twist-bend coupling that obligates the reciprocal interconversion of bending energy and twisting stress. We developed a mesoscopic model of actin filaments that captures key documented features, including the subunit dimensions, interaction energies, helicity, and geometrical constraints coming from the double-stranded structure. The filament bending and torsional rigidities predicted by the model are comparable to experimental values, demonstrating the capacity of the model to assess the mechanical properties of actin filaments, including the coupling between twisting and bending motions. The predicted actin filament twist-bend coupling is strong, with a persistence length of 0.15-0.4 μm depending on the actin-bound nucleotide. Twist-bend coupling is an emergent property that introduces local asymmetry to actin filaments and contributes to their overall elasticity. Up to 60% of the filament subunit elastic free energy originates from twist-bend coupling, with the largest contributions resulting under relatively small deformations. A comparison of filaments with different architectures indicates that twist-bend coupling in actin filaments originates from their double protofilament and helical structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1852-1860
Number of pages9
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (GM071688 and GM071688-03S1 to E.M.D.L.C.), the American Heart Association (0940075N to E.M.D.L.C.), the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-06-PCV-135054 and ANR-08-SYSC-013 to L.B. and J.L.M.), and the Institute of Complex Systems IXXI, Rhône-Alpes (to J.L.M.). E.M.D.L.C. is an American Heart Association established investigator, an NSF-CAREER Award recipient (MCB-0546353), and a Hellman Family fellow.

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