Spectrins in axonal cytoskeletons: dynamics revealed by extensions and fluctuations

J Chem Phys. 2014 Jul 7;141(1):015101. doi: 10.1063/1.4885720.


The macroscopic properties, the properties of individual components, and how those components interact with each other are three important aspects of a composited structure. An understanding of the interplay between them is essential in the study of complex systems. Using axonal cytoskeleton as an example system, here we perform a theoretical study of slender structures that can be coarse-grained as a simple smooth three-dimensional curve. We first present a generic model for such systems based on the fundamental theorem of curves. We use this generic model to demonstrate the applicability of the well-known worm-like chain (WLC) model to the network level and investigate the situation when the system is stretched by strong forces (weakly bending limit). We specifically studied recent experimental observations that revealed the hitherto unknown periodic cytoskeleton structure of axons and measured the longitudinal fluctuations. Instead of focusing on single molecules, we apply analytical results from the WLC model to both single molecule and network levels and focus on the relations between extensions and fluctuations. We show how this approach introduces constraints to possible local dynamics of the spectrin tetramers in the axonal cytoskeleton and finally suggests simple but self-consistent dynamics of spectrins in which the spectrins in one spatial period of axons fluctuate in-sync.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Axons / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry*
  • Elasticity
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Spectrin / chemistry*


  • Spectrin