The cell's cytoskeleton, providing the cell with structure and shape, consists of a complex array of structural proteins, including microtubules, microfilaments and intermediate filaments. Intermediate filaments play a crucial role in mechanotransduction and in providing mechanical stability to cells, in particular under large deformation. By utilizing molecular simulation, here we report a nanomechanical analysis of vimentin intermediate filament dimers, the basic building blocks of intermediate filaments. We describe a detailed analysis of the mechanical properties and associated deformation mechanisms, and find that mechanical stretch induces a transition from alpha-helices to beta-sheets, a phenomenon known as alpha-beta transition. A comparison of the Young's modulus predicted from simulation with experimental measurements is provided, and good agreement is found. We present an analysis of structural changes during deformation, domain unfolding patterns, rate dependence of the rupture force and associated changes in the energy landscape, and conclude with a discussion of potential implications for mechanobiology and the development of de novo protein materials.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering