Numerous engineered and natural systems form through reinforcement and stabilization of a deformed configuration that was generated by a transient force. An important class of such structures arises during gametogenesis, when a dividing cell undergoes incomplete cytokinesis, giving rise to daughter cells that remain connected through a stabilized intercellular bridge (ICB). ICBs can form through arrest of the contractile cytokinetic furrow and its subsequent stabilization. Despite knowledge of the molecular components, the mechanics underlying robust ICB assembly and the interplay between ring contractility and stiffening are poorly understood. Here, we report joint experimental and theoretical work that explores the physics underlying robust ICB assembly. We develop a continuum mechanics model that reveals the minimal requirements for the formation of stable ICBs, and validate the model’s equilibrium predictions through a tabletop experimental analog. With insight into the equilibrium states, we turn to the dynamics: we demonstrate that contractility and stiffening are in dynamic competition and that the time intervals of their action must overlap to ensure assembly of ICBs of biologically observed proportions. Our results highlight a mechanism in which deformation and remodeling are tightly coordinated—one that is applicable to several mechanics-based applications and is a common theme in biological systems spanning several length scales.
Small cell clusters exhibit numerous phenomena typically associated with complex systems, such as division of labour and programmed cell death. A conserved class of such clusters occurs during oogenesis in the form of germline cysts that give rise to oocytes. Germline cysts form through cell divisions with incomplete cytokinesis, leaving cells intimately connected through intercellular bridges that facilitate cyst generation, cell fate determination and collective growth dynamics. Using the well-characterized Drosophila melanogaster female germline cyst as a foundation, we present mathematical models rooted in the dynamics of cell cycle proteins and their interactions to explain the generation of germline cell lineage trees (CLTs) and highlight the diversity of observed CLT sizes and topologies across species. We analyse competing models of symmetry breaking in CLTs to rationalize the observed dynamics and robustness of oocyte fate specification, and highlight remaining gaps in knowledge. We also explore how CLT topology affects cell cycle dynamics and synchronization and highlight mechanisms of intercellular coupling that underlie the observed collective growth patterns during oogenesis. Throughout, we point to similarities across organisms that warrant further investigation and comment on the extent to which experimental and theoretical findings made in model systems extend to other species.
The previously reported Q is a thermoresponsive coiled-coil protein capable of higher-order supramolecular assembly into fibers and hydrogels with upper critical solution temperature (UCST) behavior. Here, we introduce a new coiled-coil protein that is redesigned to disfavor lateral growth of its fibers and thus achieve a higher crosslinking density within the formed hydrogel. We also introduce a favorable hydrophobic mutation to the pore of the coiled-coil domain for increased thermostability of the protein. We note that an increase in storage modulus of the hydrogel and crosslinking density is coupled with a decrease in fiber diameter. We further fully characterize our α-helical coiled-coil (Q2) hydrogel for its structure, nano-assembly, and rheology relative to our previous single domain protein, Q, over the time of its gelation demonstrating the nature of our hydrogel self-assembly system. In this vein, we also characterize the ability of Q2 to encapsulate the small hydrophobic small molecule, curcumin, and its impact on the mechanical properties of Q2. The design parameters here not only show the importance of electrostatic potential in self-assembly but also provide a step towards predictable design of electrostatic protein interactions.
Canary in the cardiac-valve coal mine: Flow velocity and inferred shear during prosthetic valve closure –predictors of blood damage and clotting
To demonstrate a clear link between predicted blood shear forces during valve closure and thrombogenicity that explains the thrombogenic difference between tissue and mechanical valves and provides a practical metric to develop and refine prosthetic valve designs for reduced thrombogenicity.
Independently paced Ca2+ oscillations in progenitor and differentiated cells in an ex vivo epithelial organ
Cytosolic Ca2+ is a highly dynamic, tightly regulated and broadly conserved cellular signal. Ca2+ dynamics have been studied widely in cellular monocultures, yet organs in vivo comprise heterogeneous populations of stem and differentiated cells. Here, we examine Ca2+ dynamics in the adult Drosophila intestine, a self-renewing epithelial organ in which stem cells continuously produce daughters that differentiate into either enteroendocrine cells or enterocytes. Live imaging of whole organs ex vivo reveals that stem-cell daughters adopt strikingly distinct patterns of Ca2+ oscillations after differentiation: enteroendocrine cells exhibit single-cell Ca2+ oscillations, whereas enterocytes exhibit rhythmic, long-range Ca2+ waves. These multicellular waves do not propagate through immature progenitors (stem cells and enteroblasts), of which the oscillation frequency is approximately half that of enteroendocrine cells. Organ-scale inhibition of gap junctions eliminates Ca2+ oscillations in all cell types – even, intriguingly, in progenitor and enteroendocrine cells that are surrounded only by enterocytes. Our findings establish that cells adopt fate-specific modes of Ca2+ dynamics as they terminally differentiate and reveal that the oscillatory dynamics of different cell types in a single, coherent epithelium are paced independently.
Peptoid macrocycles are versatile and chemically diverse peptidomimetic oligomers. However, the conformations and dynamics of these macrocycles have not been evaluated comprehensively and require extensive further investigation. Recent studies indicate that two degrees of freedom, and four distinct conformations, adequately describe the behavior of each monomer backbone unit in most peptoid oligomers. On the basis of this insight, we conducted molecular dynamics simulations of model macrocycles using an exhaustive set of idealized possible starting conformations. Simulations of various sizes of peptoid macrocycles yielded a limited set of populated conformations. In addition to reproducing all relevant experimentally determined conformations, the simulations accurately predicted a cyclo-octamer conformation for which we now present the first experimental observation. Sets of three adjacent dihedral angles (ϕi, ψi, ωi+1) exhibited correlated crankshaft motions over the course of simulation for peptoid macrocycles of six residues and larger. These correlated motions may occur in the form of an inversion of one amide bond and the concerted rotation of the preceding ϕ and ψ angles to their mirror-image conformation, a variation on “crankshaft flip” motions studied in polymers and peptides. The energy landscape of these peptoid macrocycles can be described as a network of conformations interconnected by transformations of individual crankshaft flips. For macrocycles of up to eight residues, our mapping of the landscape is essentially complete.
Mixtures of filaments and molecular motors form active materials with diverse dynamical behaviors that vary based on their constituents’ molecular properties. To develop a multiscale of these materials, we map the nonequilibrium phase diagram of microtubules and tip-accumulating kinesin-4 molecular motors. We find that kinesin-4 can drive either global contractions or turbulent like extensile dynamics, depending on the concentrations of both microtubules and a bundling agent. We also observe a range of spatially heterogeneous nonequilibrium phases, including finite-sized radial asters, 1D wormlike chains, extended 2D bilayers, and system-spanning 3D active foams. Finally, we describe intricate kinetic pathways that yield microphase-separated structures and arise from the inherent frustration between the orientational order of filamentous microtubules and the positional order of tip-accumulating molecular motors. Our work reveals a range of novel active states. It also shows that the form of active stresses is not solely dictated by the properties of individual motors and filaments, but is also contingent on the constituent concentrations and spatial arrangement of motors on the filaments.
Epigenomic profiling has enabled large-scale identification of regulatory elements, yet we still lack a systematic mapping from any sequence or variant to regulatory activities. We address this challenge with Sei, a framework for integrating human genetics data with sequence information to discover the regulatory basis of traits and diseases. Sei learns a vocabulary of regulatory activities, called sequence classes, using a deep learning model that predicts 21,907 chromatin profiles across >1,300 cell lines and tissues. Sequence classes provide a global classification and quantification of sequence and variant effects based on diverse regulatory activities, such as cell type-specific enhancer functions. These predictions are supported by tissue-specific expression, expression quantitative trait loci and evolutionary constraint data. Furthermore, sequence classes enable characterization of the tissue-specific, regulatory architecture of complex traits and generate mechanistic hypotheses for individual regulatory pathogenic mutations. We provide Sei as a resource to elucidate the regulatory basis of human health and disease.
We consider the Saintillan--Shelley kinetic model of active rodlike particles in Stokes flow (Saintillan & Shelley 2008a,b), for which the uniform, isotropic suspension of pusher particles is known to be unstable in certain settings. Through weakly nonlinear analysis accompanied by numerical simulations, we determine exactly how the isotropic steady state loses stability in different parameter regimes. We study each of the various types of bifurcations admitted by the system, including both subcritical and supercritical Hopf and pitchfork bifurcations. Elucidating this system's behavior near these bifurcations provides a theoretical means of comparing this model with other physical systems which transition to turbulence, and makes predictions about the nature of bifurcations in active suspensions that can be explored experimentally.
Many active biological particles, such as swimming microorganisms or motor-proteins, do work on their environment by going though a periodic sequence of shapes. Interactions between particles can lead to the phase-synchronization of their duty cycles. Here we consider collective dynamics in a suspension of such active particles coupled through hydrodynamics. We demonstrate that the emergent non-equilibrium states feature stationary patterned flows and robust unidirectional pumping states under confinement. Moreover the phase-synchronized state of the suspension exhibits spatially robust chimera patterns in which synchronized and phase-isotropic regions coexist within the same system. These findings demonstrate a new route to pattern formation and could guide the design of new active materials.