Nonequilibrium self-assembly of linear fibers: Microscopic treatment of growth, decay, catastrophe and rescue

Chenghang Zong, Ting Lu, Tongye Shen, Peter G. Wolynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of the large structures of cells are constructed from fibers. These fibers self-assemble from individual proteins in a far-from-equilibrium fashion. Nonequilibrium self-assembly results in a highly dynamic process at the subcellular level that can be regulated and tuned to carry out many of the biological functions of the cell: growth, division and locomotion. We construct and analyze a nonequilibrium model of the dynamic end of a biological fiber that possesses site-resolved resolution. We solve for the steady states of this nonequilibrium system using a variational method. The results are compared to exact numerical solutions for systems with modest size. Using an effective reaction coordinate, we construct an effective potential from the steady-state distribution. The stochastic transitions of the system can be analyzed in this representation. We then apply this method to model microtubule systems. Predictions for macroscopic catastrophe, rescue and dynamic instability in the steady states are analyzed. We find that the length of the cap of the microtubule is small. The relations between the catastrophe/rescue rate and the growth rate are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-92
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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