Biophysics Journal Club

Emergent Programmable Behavior And Chaos In Dynamically Driven Active Filaments

Matthew Leighton, SFU Physics
Location: P8445.2

Wednesday, 26 July 2023 12:30PM PDT


How the behavior of cells emerges from their constituent subcellular biochemical and physical parts is an outstanding challenge at the intersection of biology and physics. A remarkable example of single-cell behavior occurs in the ciliate Lacrymaria olor, which hunts for its prey via rapid movements and protrusions of a slender neck, many times the size of the original cell body. The dynamics of this cell neck is powered by a coat of cilia across its length and tip. How a cell can program this active filamentous structure to produce desirable behaviors like search and homing to a target remains unknown. Here, we present an active filament model that allows us to uncover how a “program” (time sequence of active forcing) leads to “behavior” (filament shape dynamics). Our model captures two key features of this system—time-varying activity patterns (extension and compression cycles) and active stresses that are uniquely aligned with the filament geometry—a “follower force” constraint. We show that active filaments under deterministic, time-varying follower forces display rich behaviors including periodic and aperiodic dynamics over long times. We further show that aperiodicity occurs due to a transition to chaos in regions of a biologically accessible parameter space. We also identify a simple nonlinear iterated map of filament shape that approximately predicts long-term behavior suggesting simple, artificial “programs” for filament functions such as homing and searching space. Last, we directly measure the statistical properties of biological programs in L. olor, enabling comparisons between model predictions and experiments.

by D. Krishnamurthy and M. Prakash

PNAS (2023).