In several studies of actin-based cellular motility, the barbed ends of actin filaments have been observed to be attached to moving obstacles. Filament growth in the presence of such filament-obstacle interactions is studied via Brownian dynamics simulations of a three-dimensional energy-based model. We find that with a binding energy greater than 24k B T and a highly directional force field, a single actin filament is able to push a small obstacle for over a second at a speed of half of the free filament elongation rate. These results are consistent with experimental observations of plastic beads in cell extracts. Calculations of an external force acting on a single-filament-pushed obstacle show that for typical in vitro free-actin concentrations, a 3pN pulling force maximizes the obstacle speed, while a 4pN pushing force almost stops the obstacle. Extension of the model to treat beads propelled by many filaments suggests that most of the propulsive force could be generated by attached filaments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-222
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Physical Journal E
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2006


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