2023 journal article
A unified model for the dynamics of ATP-independent ultrafast contraction
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 120(25).
In nature, several ciliated protists possess the remarkable ability to execute ultrafast motions using protein assemblies called myonemes, which contract in response to Ca2+ ions. Existing theories, such as actomyosin contractility and macroscopic biomechanical latches, do not adequately describe these systems, necessitating development of models to understand their mechanisms. In this study, we image and quantitatively analyze the contractile kinematics observed in two ciliated protists (Vorticella sp. and Spirostomum sp.), and, based on the mechanochemistry of these organisms, we propose a minimal mathematical model that reproduces our observations as well as those published previously. Analyzing the model reveals three distinct dynamic regimes, differentiated by the rate of chemical driving and the importance of inertia. We characterize their unique scaling behaviors and kinematic signatures. Besides providing insights into Ca2+-powered myoneme contraction in protists, our work may also inform the rational design of ultrafast bioengineered systems such as active synthetic cells.