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Effect of fluctuating surface structure and free energy on the growth of linear tubular aggregates

Hill, T.L.

Biophysical Journal 49(5): 1017-1031

1986

Simple linear tubular aggregates with up to eight strands are studied theoretically at equilibrium and under conditions of steady growth or shortening. The surface structure and free energy at an end of the polymer fluctuate as a consequence of the gain or loss of individual subunits. The surface free energy governs the probability distribution of surface structures at equilibrium. At steady state, on and off rate constants are crucial for this purpose; these depend on the gain or loss of neighbor interactions at the polymer end when a subunit is gained or lost. The observed on and off rate constants are averages of microscopic rate constants. A consequence of this is that the subunit flux onto the polymer end is, in general, not a linear function of the free subunit concentration, as is usually assumed. Monte Carlo calculations are needed at steady state for three or more strands. The general approach can be applied to microtubules, which have 13 strands. Actin is a special case, included here, with two strands.

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