Actin bundle architecture and mechanics regulate myosin II force generation

Biophys J. 2021 May 18;120(10):1957-1970. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2021.03.026. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


The actin cytoskeleton is a soft, structural material that underlies biological processes such as cell division, motility, and cargo transport. The cross-linked actin filaments self-organize into a myriad of architectures, from disordered meshworks to ordered bundles, which are hypothesized to control the actomyosin force generation that regulates cell migration, shape, and adhesion. Here, we use fluorescence microscopy and simulations to investigate how actin bundle architectures with varying polarity, spacing, and rigidity impact myosin II dynamics and force generation. Microscopy reveals that mixed-polarity bundles formed by rigid cross-linkers support slow, bidirectional myosin II filament motion, punctuated by periods of stalled motion. Simulations reveal that these locations of stalled myosin motion correspond to sustained, high forces in regions of balanced actin filament polarity. By contrast, mixed-polarity bundles formed by compliant, large cross-linkers support fast, bidirectional motion with no traps. Simulations indicate that trap duration is directly related to force magnitude and that the observed increased velocity corresponds to lower forces resulting from both the increased bundle compliance and filament spacing. Our results indicate that the microstructures of actin assemblies regulate the dynamics and magnitude of myosin II forces, highlighting the importance of architecture and mechanics in regulating forces in biological materials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton
  • Actins*
  • Actomyosin
  • Myosin Type II*
  • Myosins


  • Actins
  • Actomyosin
  • Myosin Type II
  • Myosins