A model system exploring ATP synthase reveals that rotation, repulsion and flow can crystallize proteins. It may explain a biophysical mystery in mitochondrial membranes.
Self-organizing systems surround us, from the synchronization of a flock of birds to the dance of the cellular scaffolding known as the cytoskeleton. Deemed ‘active matter,’ self-organizing systems hold enticing stories. How do things become self-organized? And is that self-organization biologically relevant?
These questions are part of what led Michael Shelley, director of the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Biology, and his team to investigate the conditions required for the self-organization of rotating inclusions within a simulated membrane, a model system for the ATP synthase proteins that rotate within a cell’s mitochondrial membranes. In a paper published on October 3 in Physical Review Letters, Shelley and his team showed that a combination of the proteins’ rotation and repulsion resulted in the formation of a lattice.
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