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Vimentin intermediate filaments undergo irreversible conformational changes during cyclic loading

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Witt,  Hannes
Max Planck Fellow Group Membrane-based biomimetic nano- and micro-compartments, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Forsting, J., Kraxner, J., Witt, H., Janshoff], A., & Köster, S. (2019). Vimentin intermediate filaments undergo irreversible conformational changes during cyclic loading. Nano Letters, 19(10), 7349-7356. doi:10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b02972.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-17FB-7
Abstract
Intermediate filaments (IFs) are part of the cytoskeleton of eukaryotic cells and, therefore, are largely responsible for the cell's mechanical properties. IFs are characterized by a pronounced extensibility and remarkable resilience that enable them to support cells in extreme situations. Previous experiments showed that, under strain, alpha-helices in vimentin IFs might unfold to beta-sheets. Upon repeated stretching, the filaments soften; however, the remaining plastic strain is negligible. Here, we observe that vimentin IFs do not recover their original stiffness on reasonable time scales, and we explain these seemingly contradicting results by introducing a third, less well-defined conformational state. Reversibility on the nanoscale can be fully rescued by introducing cross-linkers that prevent transition to the beta-sheet. Our results classify IFs as a nanomaterial with intriguing mechanical properties, which is likely to play a major role for the cell's local adaption to external stimuli.