The growth of an actin network against an obstacle that stimulates branching locally is studied using several variants of a kinetic rate model based on the orientation-dependent number density of filaments. The model emphasizes the effects of branching and capping on the density of free filament ends. The variants differ in their treatment of side versus end branching and dimensionality, and assume that new branches are generated by existing branches (autocatalytic behavior) or independently of existing branches (nucleation behavior). In autocatalytic models, the network growth velocity is rigorously independent of the opposing force exerted by the obstacle, and the network density is proportional to the force. The dependence of the growth velocity on the branching and capping rates is evaluated by a numerical solution of the rate equations. In side-branching models, the growth velocity drops gradually to zero with decreasing branching rate, while in end-branching models the drop is abrupt. As the capping rate goes to zero, it is found that the behavior of the velocity is sensitive to the thickness of the branching region. Experiments are proposed for using these results to shed light on the nature of the branching process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2907-2918
Number of pages12
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2003


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