The cytoskeleton plays a crucial role in determining internal cell order. Networks and bundles of filaments spontaneously form structures with mechanical integrity that provide cells with shape, that generate mechanical forces and movement by polymerization and motor-based sliding, and that act as tracks for intracellular transport by motor proteins. Local feedback mechanisms regulate the growth and shrinkage of these cytoskeletal components. The inherent plasticity of the cytoskeletal dynamics, that take place on length scales larger than the microscopic dynamics that govern individual filaments, underlie basic features of cellular life such as determination of the center of the cell for cell division and the polarity required for directed cell motion. Recent advances in modeling complex cellular phenomena, newly developed quantitative experimental techniques, and continual breakthrough in cell biology, are poised to give unprecedented insight into the principles of cytoskeletal organization.
This week-long, intensive conference brought together a group of researchers who are interested in general physical principles underlying subcellular pattern formation processes by the cytoskeleton. Focusing on selected topics in mitosis, cell motility and cell polarization, the participants reviewed methods for the study and mathematical modeling of how macroscopic structures at the scale of the cell are constructed and regulated in space and time by processes occurring at the level of individual proteins. Progress along these lines may ultimately allow us to develop a methodology to analyze, predict, and manipulate cellular structures in cells and in reconstituted systems.
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