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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 7, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 7, 2024
  3. Gov, Nir (Ed.)
    Actin networks are essential for living cells to move, reproduce, and sense their environments. The dynamic and rheological behavior of actin networks is modulated by actin-binding proteins such as α-actinin, Arp2/3, and myosin. There is experimental evidence that actin-binding proteins modulate the cooperation of myosin motors by connecting the actin network. In this work, we present an analytical mean field model, using the Flory-Stockmayer theory of gelation, to understand how different actin-binding proteins change the connectivity of the actin filaments as the networks are formed. We follow the kinetics of the networks and estimate the concentrations of actin-binding proteins that are needed to reach connectivity percolation as well as to reach rigidity percolation. We find that Arp2/3 increases the actomyosin connectivity in the network in a non-monotonic way. We also describe how changing the connectivity of actomyosin networks modulates the ability of motors to exert forces, leading to three possible phases of the networks with distinctive dynamical characteristics: a sol phase, a gel phase, and an active phase. Thus, changes in the concentration and activity of actin-binding proteins in cells lead to a phase transition of the actin network, allowing the cells to perform active contraction and change their rheological properties. 
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  4. Calmodulin (CaM) is a calcium-binding protein that transduces signals to downstream proteins through target binding upon calcium binding in a time-dependent manner. Understanding the target binding process that tunes CaM’s affinity for the calcium ions (Ca 2+ ), or vice versa, may provide insight into how Ca 2+ -CaM selects its target binding proteins. However, modeling of Ca 2+ -CaM in molecular simulations is challenging because of the gross structural changes in its central linker regions while the two lobes are relatively rigid due to tight binding of the Ca 2+ to the calcium-binding loops where the loop forms a pentagonal bipyramidal coordination geometry with Ca 2+ . This feature that underlies the reciprocal relation between Ca 2+ binding and target binding of CaM, however, has yet to be considered in the structural modeling. Here, we presented a coarse-grained model based on the Associative memory, Water mediated, Structure, and Energy Model (AWSEM) protein force field, to investigate the salient features of CaM. Particularly, we optimized the force field of CaM and that of Ca 2+ ions by using its coordination chemistry in the calcium-binding loops to match with experimental observations. We presented a “community model” of CaM that is capable of sampling various conformations of CaM, incorporating various calcium-binding states, and carrying the memory of binding with various targets, which sets the foundation of the reciprocal relation of target binding and Ca 2+ binding in future studies. 
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  5. null (Ed.)