Fiber networks amplify active stress

Pierre Ronceray 1 Chase Broedersz 2, 3 Martin Lenz 1

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , National Academy of Sciences, 2016, 113, pp.2827

Large-scale force generation is essential for biological functions such as cell motility, embryonic development, and muscle contraction. In these processes, forces generated at the molecular level by motor proteins are transmitted by disordered fiber networks, resulting in large-scale active stresses. While these fiber networks are well characterized macroscopically, this stress generation by microscopic active units is not well understood. Here we theoretically study force transmission in these networks, and find that local active forces are rectified towards isotropic contraction and strongly amplified as fibers collectively buckle in the vicinity of the active units. This stress amplification is reinforced by the networks’ disordered nature, but saturates for high densities of active units. Our predictions are quantitatively consistent with experiments on reconstituted tissues and actomyosin networks, and shed light on the role of the network microstructure in shaping active stresses in cells and tissue.

  • 1. LPTMS – Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques
  • 2. Arnold Sommerfeld Center for Theoretical Physics
  • 3. Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
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