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Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton

Jonathon Howard

Publication Date - 16 February 2001

ISBN: 9780878933334

384 pages
7 x 9 inches

In Stock

Provides a physical foundation for molecular mechanics


Motor proteins are molecular machines that convert chemical energy from ATP hydrolysis into mechanical work, which powers cell motility. Over the last ten years, single-molecule techniques and structural studies have led to rapid progess in understanding how these biological motors operate. How do they move? How do they generate force? How much fuel do they consume, and with what efficiency? Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton brings these new findings together.

This book is for biology, physics, and engineering students who want to learn about the principles of protein mechanics and how it applies to the morphology and motility of cells. Understanding how motors and the cytoskeleton operate requires mechanical concepts such as force, elasticity, damping, and work. Introductory physics textbooks address these concepts, yet they are concerned primarily with macroscopic systems, whose motions are qualitatively different from the highly damped, diffusive motion of individual molecules.

Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton provides a physical foundation for molecular mechanics. Part I explains how small particles like proteins respond to mechanical, thermal, and chemical forces, Part II focuses on cytoskeletal filaments, and Part III focuses on motor proteins. The treatments are unified in the respect that they are organized around principles rather than proteins: chapters are centered on topics such as structure, chemistry, and mechanics, and different filaments or motors are discussed together.

The book assumes a rudimentary knowledge of cell biology as well as freshman physics, though all concepts are introduced from first principles, and numerous boxed examples and figures aid the non-mathematical reader. For the mathematically inclined, detailed proofs of important results are included in the Appendix.

About the Author(s)

Jonathon Howard is Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Professor of Physics at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned a Ph.D. in Neurobiology at Australian National University, doing postdoctoral research there as well as at the University of Bristol and the University of California, San Francisco. The Howard Lab uses highly sensitive techniques to visualize and manipulate individual biological molecules, seeking to understand the interaction rules that allow molecules to work together to form highly organized and dynamic cellular structures.The writing of Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton was inspired by Dr. Howard's teaching of a course on Cell Motility at the University of Washington.


"The cytoskeleton is an area of intense research and we are in danger of drowning in a sea of facts. A textbook is needed which starts from first principles and leads to an understanding of the dynamics of the system. And here is that book." --Edwin Taylor, Nature

"The book is a great launching point for gaining a biophysical understanding of the current detailed literature of motility which is increasingly filled with mathematical models describing motility data. As such, it will benefit students of a wide range of biological and physical backgrounds who are interested in understanding the nuts-and-bolts of cellular motility." --Stephen J. King, Cell

Table of Contents

    1. Introduction


    2. Mechanical Forces

    3. Mass, Stiffness, and Damping of Proteins

    4. Thermal Forces and Diffusion

    5. Chemical Forces

    6. Polymer Mechanics


    7. Structures of Cytoskeletal Filaments

    8. Mechanics of the Cytoskeleton

    9. Polymerization of Cytoskeletal Filaments

    10: Force Generation by Cytoskeletal Filaments

    11. Active Polymerization


    12. Structures of Motor Proteins

    13. Speeds of Motors

    14. ATP Hydrolysis

    15. Steps and Forces

    16. Motility Models: From Crossbridges to Motion