Dynamic network morphology and tension buildup in a 3D model of cytokinetic ring assembly

Biophys J. 2014 Dec 2;107(11):2618-28. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2014.10.034. Epub 2014 Dec 2.


During fission yeast cytokinesis, actin filaments nucleated by cortical formin Cdc12 are captured by myosin motors bound to a band of cortical nodes and bundled by cross-linking proteins. The myosin motors exert forces on the actin filaments, resulting in a net pulling of the nodes into a contractile ring, while cross-linking interactions help align actin filaments and nodes into a single bundle. We used these mechanisms in a three-dimensional computational model of contractile ring assembly, with semiflexible actin filaments growing from formins at cortical nodes, capturing of filaments by neighboring nodes, and cross-linking among filaments through attractive interactions. The model was used to predict profiles of actin filament density at the cell cortex, morphologies of condensing node-filament networks, and regimes of cortical tension by varying the node pulling force and strength of cross-linking among actin filaments. Results show that cross-linking interactions can lead to confinement of actin filaments at the simulated cortical boundary. We show that the ring-formation region in parameter space lies close to regions leading to clumps, meshworks or double rings, and stars/cables. Since boundaries between regions are not sharp, transient structures that resemble clumps, stars, and meshworks can appear in the process of ring assembly. These results are consistent with prior experiments with mutations in actin-filament turnover regulators, myosin motor activity, and changes in the concentration of cross-linkers that alter the morphology of the condensing network. Transient star shapes appear in some simulations, and these morphologies offer an explanation for star structures observed in prior experimental images. Finally, we quantify tension along actin filaments and forces on nodes during ring assembly and show that the mechanisms describing ring assembly can also drive ring constriction once the ring is formed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Cell Polarity
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry
  • Cytokinesis*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Myosins / metabolism


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Myosins