, Volume 11, Issue 1-2, pp 49-59
Date: 10 Feb 2011

A three-dimensional random network model of the cytoskeleton and its role in mechanotransduction and nucleus deformation

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We have developed a three-dimensional random network model of the intracellular actin cytoskeleton and have used it to study the role of the cytoskeleton in mechanotransduction and nucleus deformation. We use the model to predict the deformation of the nucleus when mechanical stresses applied on the plasma membrane are propagated through the random cytoskeletal network to the nucleus membrane. We found that our results agree with previous experiments utilizing micropipette pulling. Therefore, we propose that stress propagation through the random cytoskeletal network can be a mechanism to effect nucleus deformation, without invoking any biochemical signaling activity. Using our model, we also predict how nucleus strain and its relative displacement within the cytosol vary with varying concentrations of actin filaments and actin-binding proteins. We find that nucleus strain varies in a sigmoidal manner with actin filament concentration, while there exists an optimal concentration of actin-binding proteins that maximize nucleus displacement. We provide a theoretical analysis for these nonlinearities in terms of the connectivity of the random cytoskeletal network. Finally, we discuss laser ablation experiments that can be performed to validate these results in order to advance our understanding of the role of the cytoskeleton in mechanotransduction.