Origin of Slow Stress Relaxation in the Cytoskeleton

Yuval Mulla, F. C. Mackintosh, Gijsje H. Koenderink

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Dynamically cross-linked semiflexible biopolymers such as the actin cytoskeleton govern the mechanical behavior of living cells. Semiflexible biopolymers nonlinearly stiffen in response to mechanical loads, whereas the cross-linker dynamics allow for stress relaxation over time. Here we show, through rheology and theoretical modeling, that the combined nonlinearity in time and stress leads to an unexpectedly slow stress relaxation, similar to the dynamics of disordered systems close to the glass transition. Our work suggests that transient cross-linking combined with internal stress can explain prior reports of soft glassy rheology of cells, in which the shear modulus increases weakly with frequency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number218102
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2019


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