Measurement of the persistence length of cytoskeletal filaments using curvature distributions

Pattipong Wisanpitayakorn, Keith J. Mickolajczyk, William O. Hancock, Luis Vidali, Erkan Tüzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cytoskeletal filaments, such as microtubules and actin filaments, play important roles in the mechanical integrity of cells and the ability of cells to respond to their environment. Measuring the mechanical properties of cytoskeletal structures is crucial for gaining insight into intracellular mechanical stresses and their role in regulating cellular processes. One of the ways to characterize these mechanical properties is by measuring their persistence length, the average length over which filaments stay straight. There are several approaches in the literature for measuring filament deformations, such as Fourier analysis of images obtained using fluorescence microscopy. Here, we show how curvature distributions can be used as an alternative tool to quantify biofilament deformations, and investigate how the apparent stiffness of filaments depends on the resolution and noise of the imaging system. We present analytical calculations of the scaling curvature distributions as a function of filament discretization, and test our predictions by comparing Monte Carlo simulations with results from existing techniques. We also apply our approach to microtubules and actin filaments obtained from in vitro gliding assay experiments with high densities of nonfunctional motors, and calculate the persistence length of these filaments. The presented curvature analysis is significantly more accurate compared with existing approaches for small data sets, and can be readily applied to both in vitro and in vivo filament data through the use of the open-source codes we provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1813-1822
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 17 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics


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