Posted by: Dan | June 1, 2007

Biophysics Papers

Though I work alongside some biophysics researchers, I’m not quite sure how to put papers on cellular biophysics into the proper context. Such papers are insightful, interesting, and provide great background for me in studying other aspects of cell biology, but I’m just not familiar enough with the physics- and engineering-minded approaches.

So I’m just gonna link to these two recent high-profile papers and quote their abstracts, from Nature and Science, respectively (below the fold).

The first has a nice commentary/introduction, Biophysics: Bending over to attract, but the article itself is Aggregation and vesiculation of membrane proteins by curvature-mediated interactions:

Membrane remodelling plays an important role in cellular tasks such as endocytosis, vesiculation and protein sorting, and in the biogenesis of organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum or the Golgi apparatus. It is well established that the remodelling process is aided by specialized proteins that can sense as well as create6 membrane curvature, and trigger tubulation when added to synthetic liposomes. Because the energy needed for such large-scale changes in membrane geometry significantly exceeds the binding energy between individual proteins and between protein and membrane, cooperative action is essential. It has recently been suggested that curvature-mediated attractive interactions could aid cooperation and complement the effects of specific binding events on membrane remodelling. But it is difficult to experimentally isolate curvature-mediated interactions from direct attractions between proteins. Moreover, approximate theories predict repulsion between isotropically curving proteins. Here we use coarse-grained membrane simulations to show that curvature-inducing model proteins adsorbed on lipid bilayer membranes can experience attractive interactions that arise purely as a result of membrane curvature. We find that once a minimal local bending is realized, the effect robustly drives protein cluster formation and subsequent transformation into vesicles with radii that correlate with the local curvature imprint. Owing to its universal nature, curvature-mediated attraction can operate even between proteins lacking any specific interactions, such as newly synthesized and still immature membrane proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum.

The second, on the other hand, is actually a review article, Forces and Bond Dynamics in Cell Adhesion:

Adhesion of a biological cell to another cell or the extracellular matrix involves complex couplings between cell biochemistry, structural mechanics, and surface bonding. The interactions are dynamic and act through association and dissociation of bonds between very large molecules at rates that change considerably under stress. Combining molecular cell biology with single-molecule force spectroscopy provides a powerful tool for exploring the complexity of cell adhesion, that is, how cell signaling processes strengthen adhesion bonds and how forces applied to cell-surface bonds act on intracellular sites to catalyze chemical processes or switch molecular interactions on and off. Probing adhesion receptors on strategically engineered cells with force during functional stimulation can reveal key nodes of communication between the mechanical and chemical circuitry of a cell.

  • Reynwar BJ, Illya G, Harmandaris VA, Muller MM, Kremer K, Deserno M. Aggregation and vesiculation of membrane proteins by curvature-mediated interactions. Nature. 2007 May 24;447(7143):461-4.
  • Evans EA, Calderwood DA. Forces and bond dynamics in cell adhesion. Science. 2007 May 25;316(5828):1148-53.


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