Journal of Muscle Research & Cell Motility

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 376–393 | Cite as

Simulation of stochastic processes in motile crossbridge systems

  • Edward Pate
  • Roger Cooke


The underlying stochastic nature of many models of the actomyosin interaction should result in fluctuations in both force and shortening velocity. In classical experimental approaches involving intact or glycerinated muscle preparations these fluctuations are too small to resolve owing to the large numbers of crossbridges involved. However, new experimental techniques allow mechanical measurements to be made in systems in which small numbers of myosin heads act on a single actin filament, or small numbers of kinesin molecules act on a single tubulin filament. In these systems, stochastic effects should be evident. To understand better the nature of the expected stochastic effects, we have used computer simulation to investigate the fluctuations predicted by the original model for muscle crossbridge mechanics proposed by A. F. Huxley. We consider three situations : (1) the translation of actin or tubulin filaments by myosin or kinesin motors immobilized on a fixed substrate, (2) the production of tension by ensembles of immobilized myosin which involve the displacement of an elastic load, and (3) the fluctuations in axial displacement of a single, bipolar myosin thick filament interacting with actin filaments as in a sarcomere. In all three cases, fluctuations are clearly evident in simulations involving small numbers of motors. For case (1), we show that translation velocities can vary with crossbridge density. Whether one motor translates a filament faster, slower or at the same speed as many motors depends on the relative magnitudes of the attachment and detachment rate functions. Analytical expressions are provided to quantitate this relationship. For case (2), we show that fluctuations predicted assuming perfectly isometric conditions differ from those observed when the ‘isometric state’ is achieved against an elastic load. ‘Elastic damping’ of the fluctuations in the system results from the presence of many attached motors. In case (3) we show that in spite of the presence of stochastic fluctuations which can destabilize the uniformity of filament overlap in a sarcomere, the magnitude of thick filament displacement is less than might be anticipated over time periods ofin vivo contraction. Taken together, these simulations allow one to better interpret experimental data in terms of current models of motor function.


Actin Filament Stochastic Effect Myosin Head Thick Filament Stochastic Fluctuation 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Pate
    • 1
  • Roger Cooke
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pure and Applied MathematicsWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and the CVRIUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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