Theory of active self-organization of dense nematic structures in actin gels

Waleed Mirza, Marco De Corato, Marco Pensalfini, Guillermo Vilanova, Alejandro Torres-Sánchez, Marino Arroyo


The actin cytoskeleton is remarkably adaptable and multifunctional. It often organizes into nematic bundles such as contractile rings or stress fibers. However, how a uniform and isotropic actin gel self-organizes into dense nematic bundles is not understood. Here, using an active gel model accounting for nematic order and density variations, we identify a novel active patterning mechanism leading to dense nematic structures. Linear stability analysis and nonlinear finite element simulations establish the conditions for nematic bundle self-assembly and how active gel parameters control the architecture, orientation, connectivity and dynamics of self-organized patterns. Finally, we substantiate with discrete network simulations the main requirements for nematic bundle formation according to our theory, namely increased active tension perpendicular to the nematic direction and generalized active forces conjugate to nematic order. Our work portrays actin gels a reconfigurable active materials with a spontaneous tendency to develop patterns of dense nematic bundles.

Link to preprint in arXiv