Growth of tactoidal droplets during the first-order isotropic to nematic phase transition of F-actin

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2007 Jun;75(6 Pt 1):061902. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.75.061902. Epub 2007 Jun 1.


We report on the observed characteristics of the first-order phase transition of F-actin from the isotropic state to the nematic liquid-crystalline state. Solutions of short average filament length F-actin at appropriate concentrations phase separate to form tactoidal droplets. These tactoids are the result of the minimization of their free energy and show a bipolar director field connecting two opposite poles. The tactoids are shown to form through two distinct mechanisms: nucleation and growth and spinodal decomposition. Both mechanisms produce tactoids with final domain sizes that are of the same order of magnitude. Additionally, analysis of the system shows several features of metastability. The solution can exist in a variety of steady states near equilibrium and can be easily perturbed, settling in one prescribed by the path followed in phase space.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / chemistry*
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Liquid Crystals / chemistry*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phase Transition*
  • Rabbits


  • Actins