Durotaxis of Passive Nanoparticles on Elastic Membranes

I Palaia and A Paraschiv and VE Debets and C Storm and A Saric, ACS NANO, 15, 15794-15802 (2021).

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c02777

The transport of macromolecules and nanoscopic particles to a target cellular site is a crucial aspect in many physiological processes. This directional motion is generally controlled via active mechanical and chemical processes. Here we show, by means of molecular dynamics simulations and an analytical theory, that completely passive nanoparticles can exhibit directional motion when embedded in nonuniform mechanical environments. Specifically, we study the motion of a passive nanoparticle adhering to a mechanically nonuniform elastic membrane. We observe a nonmonotonic affinity of the particle to the membrane as a function of the membrane's rigidity, which results in the particle transport. This transport can be both up or down the rigidity gradient, depending on the absolute values of the rigidities that the gradient spans across. We conclude that rigidity gradients can be used to direct average motion of passive macromolecules and nanoparticles on deformable membranes, resulting in the preferential accumulation of the macromolecules in regions of certain mechanical properties.

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