Filamentous active matter: Band formation, bending, buckling, and defects

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Science Advances  22 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 30, eaaw9975
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw9975


Motor proteins drive persistent motion and self-organization of cytoskeletal filaments. However, state-of-the-art microscopy techniques and continuum modeling approaches focus on large length and time scales. Here, we perform component-based computer simulations of polar filaments and molecular motors linking microscopic interactions and activity to self-organization and dynamics from the filament level up to the mesoscopic domain level. Dynamic filament cross-linking and sliding and excluded-volume interactions promote formation of bundles at small densities and of active polar nematics at high densities. A buckling-type instability sets the size of polar domains and the density of topological defects. We predict a universal scaling of the active diffusion coefficient and the domain size with activity, and its dependence on parameters like motor concentration and filament persistence length. Our results provide a microscopic understanding of cytoplasmic streaming in cells and help to develop design strategies for novel engineered active materials.

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