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Tactoidal Granules in Concentrated Actin Gels: A Solidlike State of Protein Filaments

  • Jay. X. Tang (a1), Rudolf Oldenbourg (a2), Philip G. Allen (a1) and Paul A. Janmey (a1)

Abstract

We report here the first observation and microscopic characterization of tactoidal granules of actin in concentrated gels of actin filaments (F-actin). Phase contrast microscopy shows these stable tactoids of densely packed F-actin to be of various sizes on the order of 10 μm. The background gel of F-actin is optically birefringent, indicating orientational order of the filaments consistent with theoretical predictions. In contrast, no birefringence is detected through the tactoids, suggesting very distinct yet undetermined packing of the filaments inside. The tactoids demonstrate elastic response upon micromanipulation. The microscopic segregation of F-actin into two states of different protein concentrations is consistent with a first order phase transition between a nematic gel of lower concentration on the order of ten mg/nl and a highly packed, possibly columnar state of protein filaments. In addition to the excluded volume effects which are known to drive thermodynamic phase transitions as a function of particle concentration, additional molecular forces must also play important roles since the formation was found to be irreversible upon dilution.

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Tactoidal Granules in Concentrated Actin Gels: A Solidlike State of Protein Filaments

  • Jay. X. Tang (a1), Rudolf Oldenbourg (a2), Philip G. Allen (a1) and Paul A. Janmey (a1)

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