Mechanical and structural properties of in vitro neurofilament hydrogels

S. Rammensee, P. A. Janmey, A. R. Bausch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Neurofilaments belong to the class of cytoskeletal intermediate filaments and are the predominant structural elements in axons. They are composed of a semiflexible backbone and highly charged anionic sidearms protruding from the surface of the filaments. Here, the rheology of in-vitro networks of neurofilaments purified from pig spinal cord was determined. The mechanical properties of these networks are qualitatively similar to other hydrogels of semiflexible polymers. The low-deformation storage modulus G′(ω) showed a concentration (c) dependence of G′ ∼ c 1.3 that is consistent with a model for semiflexible networks, but was also observed for polyelectrolyte brushes. A terminal relaxation was not observed in the frequency range investigated (0.007-5 Hz), supporting the notion that sidearms act as cross-links hindering slip between filaments on a time scale of many minutes. The mesh size distribution of the network was measured by analysis of Brownian motion of embedded beads. The concentration dependence of the mesh size follows the same power law behaviour as found for F-actin networks, but shows a significantly wider distribution attributable to the smaller persistence length of neurofilaments. The attractive interaction between filaments is increased by addition of Al3+ ions resulting in a reduction of the linear response regime from strains bigger than 80% to less than 30%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-668
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2007


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