Biological relevance of active gel theory

author: Jacques Prost, Institut Curie
published: April 5, 2016,   recorded: March 2016,   views: 1800


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Much of the cell mechanics, morphology and motility is determined by the dynamical properties of an actin network moving under the action of molecular motors and by a continuous process of polymerization/depolymerization called treadmilling. The actin network constitutes a physical gel the cross-links of which are both temporary and mobile. It is more complex than a physical gel in that it has a macroscopic polarity due to the microscopic polarity of actin filaments and in that the cross-links are dynamically redistributed by molecular motors. We will explain how one can propose equations describing this situation and describe a few experimental situations such as cell wound healing and cytokinesis showing what kind of understanding can be obtained from this type of analysis. The equations being obtained on the ground of conservation laws and symmetry, they should also be valid for tissues provided appropriate conservation laws are used. We will further show how predictions made ten years ago are borne out by the behaviour of nematic epithelia on patterned surfaces.

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