Toward the cellular-scale simulation of motor-driven cytoskeletal assemblies

Wen Yan, Saad Ansari, Adam Lamson, Matthew A. Glaser, Robert Blackwell, Meredith D. Betterton, Michael Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cytoskeleton – a collection of polymeric filaments, molecular motors, and crosslinkers – is a foundational example of active matter, and in the cell assembles into organelles that guide basic biological functions. Simulation of cytoskeletal assemblies is an important tool for modeling cellular processes and understanding their surprising material properties. Here, we present aLENS (a Living Ensemble Simulator), a novel computational framework designed to surmount the limits of conventional simulation methods. We model molecular motors with crosslinking kinetics that adhere to a thermodynamic energy landscape, and integrate the system dynamics while efficiently and stably enforcing hard-body repulsion between filaments. Molecular potentials are entirely avoided in imposing steric constraints. Utilizing parallel computing, we simulate tens to hundreds of thousands of cytoskeletal filaments and crosslinking motors, recapitulating emergent phenomena such as bundle formation and buckling. This simulation framework can help elucidate how motor type, thermal fluctuations, internal stresses, and confinement determine the evolution of cytoskeletal active matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere74160
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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