Departmental Papers (MEAM)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

May 2008


Postprint version. Published in International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics, May 2008, 16 pages.
Publisher URL:


The rapid development of single molecule experimental techniques in the last two decades has made it possible to accurately measure the force-extension response as well as the transverse fluctuations of individual rod-like macromolecules. This information is used in conjunction with a statistical mechanical model based on the treatment of the molecule as a fluctuating elastic rod to extract its bending and extension moduli. The models most commonly used to interpret the experimental data assume that the magnitude of the Brownian fluctuations are independent of the length of the macromolecule, an assumption that holds only in the asymptotic limit of infinitely long rods, and is violated in most experiments. As an alternative, we present a theoretical treatment of a finite length, fluctuating rod and determine its mechanical behavior by measuring the transverse Brownian fluctuations under the action of large stretching forces. to validate of our theory, we have applied our methods to an experiment on short actin filaments whose force-extension relation is difficult to measure, but whose transverse deflections can be captured by current microscopy techniques. An important consequence of the short contour lengths is that the boundary conditions applied in the experiment affect the fluctuations and can no longer be neglected as is commonly done when interpreting data from force-extension measurements. Our theoretical methods account for boundary conditions and can therefore be deployed in conjunction with force extension measurements to obtain detailed information about the mechanical response of rod-like macromolecules.


fluctuating rods, force-extension, Brownian motion



Date Posted: 10 June 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.