Strain energy storage and dissipation rate in active cell mechanics


Strain energy storage and dissipation rate in active cell mechanics
Sunday 3rd June 2018
Agosti, A.; Ambrosi, D.; Turzi, S.
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When living cells are observed at rest on a flat substrate, they can typically exhibit a rounded (symmetric) or an elongated (polarized) shape. Although the cells are apparently at rest, the active stress generated by the molecular motors continuously stretches and drifts the actin network, the cytoskeleton of the cell. In this work we theoretically compare the energy stored and dissipated in this active system in two geometric configurations of interest: symmetric and polarized. We find that the stored energy is larger for a radially symmetric cell at low activation regime, while the polar configuration has larger strain energy when the active stress is beyond a critical threshold. Conversely, the dissipation of energy in a symmetric cell is always larger than that of a non-symmetric one. By a combination of symmetry arguments and competition between surface and bulk stress, we argue that radial symmetry is an energetically expensive metastable state that provides access to an infinite number of lower energy states, the polarized configurations.
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Physical Review E (Vol. 97, No. 5). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.97.052410