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  • Research progress on the application of contact mechanics in bio-adhesion
    Author:   | Date:2006-08-14   | Click Rate:    | 【Close

    Accumulating biological evidence shows that cells actively sense and react to mechanical forces and deformation in the environment. At the molecular level, specific binding between protein molecules is believed to play an important role in cell adhesion and signal transduction. Protein molecules are deformable and can alter their conformations under mechanical forces. The conformation changes can in turn affect protein-protein and protein-DNA recognition, binding and unbinding. In some cases, the effect of mechanical deformation may decrease the receptor-ligand binding and in others it may enhance the interactions by exposing the binding sites. Recently, Dr. S. Chen, LNM, Institute of Mechanics of CAS, and his collaborator, Prof. H. Gao, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany during 2000 and 2005 and now working in Brown University of USA, have investigated the problem of how cells and molecules detecting signals in the environment from the contact mechanics point of view to try to find the possible sensing mechanism. A generalized JKR model is established for non-slipping adhesive contact between two dissimilar elastic spheres subjected to a pair of pulling forces and a mismatch strain, in which the pulling force may be interpreted as an effective force due to thermal or entropic forces and the mismatch strain is induced by environmental forces such as changes in temperature and/or pressure. The model predicts that the mismatch strain has significant effect on both the contact area and the pull-off process. Under a finite pulling force, a pair of adhering particles is predicted to break apart spontaneously at a critical mismatch strain, thereby suggesting a possible mechanism by which cells and molecules can detect environmental changes via specific binding interactions. The above results have been published in Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 54 (2006), 1548-1567.


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