Computational estimates of membrane flow and tension gradient in motile cells

Ben Fogelson, Alex Mogilner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


All parts of motile cells, including the plasma membrane, have to translocate in the direction of locomotion. Both directed intracellular membrane transport coupled with polarized endo- and exocytosis and fluid flow in the plane of the plasma membrane can contribute to this overall plasma membrane translocation. It remains unclear how strong a force is required to generate this flow. We numerically solve Stokes equations for the viscous membrane flow across a flat plasma membrane surface in the presence of transmembrane proteins attached to the cytoskeleton and find the membrane tension gradient associated with this flow. This gradient is sensitive to the size and density of the transmembrane proteins attached to the cytoskeleton and can become significant enough to slow down cell movement. We estimate the influence of intracellular membrane transport and actin growth and contraction on the tension gradient, and discuss possible 'tank tread' flow at ventral and dorsal surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere84524
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 17 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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