Skip to main content

Measuring molecular rupture forces between single actin filaments and actin-binding proteins


Ferrer J.M. , Lee H. , Chen J. , Pelz B. , Nakamura F. , Kamm R.D. , Lang M.J. . PNAS. 2008 ; 105(27). 9221-9226


PDF  Link

Actin-binding proteins (ABPs) regulate the assembly of actin filaments (F-actin) into networks and bundles that provide the structural integrity of the cell. Two of these ABPs, filamin and α-actinin, have been extensively used to model the mechanical properties of actin networks grown in vitro; however, there is a lack in the understanding of how the molecular interactions between ABPs and F-actin regulate the dynamic properties of the cytoskeleton. Here, we present a native-like assay geometry to test the rupture force of a complex formed by an ABP linking two quasiparallel actin filaments. We readily demonstrate the adaptability of this assay by testing it with two different ABPs: filamin and α-actinin. For filamin/actin and α-actinin/actin, we measured similar rupture forces of 40–80 pN for loading rates between 4 and 50 pN/s. Both ABP unfolding and conformational transition events were observed, demonstrating that both are important and may be a significant mechanism for the temporal regulation of the mechanical properties of the actin cytoskeleton. With this modular, single-molecule assay, a wide range of ABP/actin interactions can be studied to better understand cytoskeletal and cell dynamics.