Neurofilaments Function as Shock Absorbers: Compression Response Arising from Disordered Proteins

Micha Kornreich*, Eti Malka-Gibor, Ben Zuker, Adi Laser-Azogui, Roy Beck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What can cells gain by using disordered, rather than folded, proteins in the architecture of their skeleton? Disordered proteins take multiple coexisting conformations, and often contain segments which act as random-walk-shaped polymers. Using x-ray scattering we measure the compression response of disordered protein hydrogels, which are the main stress-responsive component of neuron cells. We find that at high compression their mechanics are dominated by gaslike steric and ionic repulsions. At low compression, specific attractive interactions dominate. This is demonstrated by the considerable hydrogel expansion induced by the truncation of critical short protein segments. Accordingly, the floppy disordered proteins form a weakly cross-bridged hydrogel, and act as shock absorbers that sustain large deformations without failure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2016


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