Trapping and wiggling: elastohydrodynamics of driven microfilaments

Biophys J. 1998 Feb;74(2 Pt 1):1043-60. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(98)74029-9.


We present an analysis of the planar motion of single semiflexible filaments subject to viscous drag or point forcing. These are the relevant forces in dynamic experiments designed to measure biopolymer bending moduli. By analogy with the "Stokes problems" in hydrodynamics (motion of a viscous fluid induced by that of a wall bounding the fluid), we consider the motion of a polymer, one end of which is moved in an impulsive or oscillatory way. Analytical solutions for the time-dependent shapes of such moving polymers are obtained within an analysis applicable to small-amplitude deformations. In the case of oscillatory driving, particular attention is paid to a characteristic length determined by the frequency of oscillation, the polymer persistence length, and the viscous drag coefficient. Experiments on actin filaments manipulated with optical traps confirm the scaling law predicted by the analysis and provide a new technique for measuring the elastic bending modulus. Exploiting this model, we also present a reanalysis of several published experiments on microtubules.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Actins / chemistry
  • Actins / physiology
  • Biophysics / methods
  • Elasticity
  • Kinetics
  • Mathematics
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Oscillometry
  • Viscosity


  • Actins