The organization of biomotile systems possesses structural and functional hierarchy, building up from single molecules via protein assemblies and cells further up to an organ. A typical example is the hierarchy of cardiac muscle, on the top of which is the heart. The heartbeat is supported by the rhythmic contraction of the muscle cells that is controlled by the Ca 2+ oscillation triggered by periodic electrical excitation of pacemaker cells. Thus, it is usually believed that the heartbeat is governed by the control system based on a sequential one-way chain with the electrical/chemical information transfer from the upper to the lower level of hierarchy. On the other hand, it has been known for many years that the contractile system of muscle, i.e., skinned muscle fibers and myofibrils, itself possesses the auto-oscillatory properties even in the constant chemical environment. A recent paper [Plaçais, et al. (2009), Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 158102] demonstrated the auto-oscillatory movement/tension development in an in vitro motility assay composed of a single actin filament and randomly distributed myosin II molecules, suggesting that the auto-oscillatory properties are inherent to the contractile proteins. Here we discuss how the molecular motors may acquire the higher-ordered auto-oscillatory properties while stepping up the staircase of hierarchy.
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