Liquid behavior of cross-linked actin bundles. Academic Article uri icon


  • The actin cytoskeleton is a critical regulator of cytoplasmic architecture and mechanics, essential in a myriad of physiological processes. Here we demonstrate a liquid phase of actin filaments in the presence of the physiological cross-linker, filamin. Filamin condenses short actin filaments into spindle-shaped droplets, or tactoids, with shape dynamics consistent with a continuum model of anisotropic liquids. We find that cross-linker density controls the droplet shape and deformation timescales, consistent with a variable interfacial tension and viscosity. Near the liquid-solid transition, cross-linked actin bundles show behaviors reminiscent of fluid threads, including capillary instabilities and contraction. These data reveal a liquid droplet phase of actin, demixed from the surrounding solution and dominated by interfacial tension. These results suggest a mechanism to control organization, morphology, and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton.

publication date

  • February 28, 2017