Kinesin and myosin motors compete to drive rich multiphase dynamics in programmable cytoskeletal composites

Ryan J. McGorty, Christopher J. Currie, Jonathan Michel, Mehrzad Sasanpour, Christopher Gunter, K. Alice Lindsay, Michael J. Rust, Parag Katira, Moumita Das, Jennifer L. Ross, Rae M. Robertson-Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The cellular cytoskeleton relies on diverse populations of motors, filaments, and binding proteins acting in concert to enable nonequilibrium processes ranging from mitosis to chemotaxis. The cytoskeleton's versatile reconfigurability, programmed by interactions between its constituents, makes it a foundational active matter platform. However, current active matter endeavors are limited largely to single force-generating components acting on a single substrate-far from the composite cytoskeleton in cells. Here, we engineer actin-microtubule (MT) composites, driven by kinesin and myosin motors and tuned by crosslinkers, to ballistically restructure and flow with speeds that span three orders of magnitude depending on the composite formulation and time relative to the onset of motor activity. Differential dynamic microscopy analyses reveal that kinesin and myosin compete to delay the onset of acceleration and suppress discrete restructuring events, while passive crosslinking of either actin or MTs has an opposite effect. Our minimal advection-diffusion model and spatial correlation analyses correlate these dynamics to structure, with motor antagonism suppressing reconfiguration and demixing, while crosslinking enhances clustering. Despite the rich formulation space and emergent formulation-dependent structures, the nonequilibrium dynamics across all composites and timescales can be organized into three classes-slow isotropic reorientation, fast directional flow, and multimode restructuring. Moreover, our mathematical model demonstrates that diverse structural motifs can arise simply from the interplay between motor-driven advection and frictional drag. These general features of our platform facilitate applicability to other active matter systems and shed light on diverse ways that cytoskeletal components can cooperate or compete to enable wide-ranging cellular processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpgad245
JournalPNAS Nexus
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023


  • actin
  • active matter
  • cytoskeleton
  • kinesin
  • microtubules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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