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Modelling the dynamics of actomyosin droplets, and their consequences for cell motility

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The Mathematics of Liquid Crystals

We present a lattice Boltzmann study of the dynamics of an actomyosin droplet, described in terms of a continuum model which follows the time evolution of actomyosin density, actin polarisation and flow. This analysis offers a simple representation of a “cell extract”, which is a highly simplified system used in vitro to understand cell dynamics, and which essentially only comprises the actin cytoskeleton and an enclosing cell membrane. In the absence of polymerization and depolymerization processes (‘treadmilling’), the dynamics of our actomyosin droplet arises solely from the contractile motion of myosin motors; this should be unchanged when polarity is inverted. Our results suggest that motility can arise in the absence of treadmilling, by spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB) of polarity inversion symmetry. This motility mode driven by myosin contractility alone may be relevant to cell motion in three dimensions, where frictional forces, which are crucial to convert actin polymerisatino into motion, are likely to be modest. We also show of active droplets crawling on a substrate, when both treadmilling and contractility are taken into account. Our droplets can adopt a number of morphologies and motility modes found experimentally in cells, such as lamellipodia, pseudopodia and oscillatory cell motion.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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