Motor-Free Contractility in Active Gels

Sihan Chen, Tomer Markovich, Fred C. Mackintosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal cells form contractile structures to promote various functions, from cell motility to cell division. Force generation in these structures is often due to molecular motors such as myosin that require polar substrates for their function. Here, we propose a motor-free mechanism that can generate contraction in biopolymer networks without the need for polarity. This mechanism is based on active binding and unbinding of cross-linkers that breaks the principle of detailed balance, together with the asymmetric force-extension response of semiflexible biopolymers. We find that these two ingredients can generate steady state contraction via a nonthermal, ratchetlike process. We calculate the resulting force-velocity relation using both coarse-grained and microscopic models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number208101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - 13 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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