SU-E-J-61: Electrodynamics and Nano-Scale Fluid Dynamics in Protein Localization of Nuclear Pore Complexes




To develop a simulation to catalyze a reevaluation of common assumptions about 3 dimensional diffusive processes and help cell biologists gain a more nuanced, intuitive understanding of the true physical hurdles of protein signaling cascades. Furthermore, to discuss the possibility of intracellular electrodynamics as a critical, unrecognized component of cellular biology and protein dynamics that is necessary for optimal information flow from the cell membrane to the nucleus.


The Unity 3D gaming physics engine was used to build an accurate virtual scale model of the cytoplasm within a few hundred nanometers of the nuclear membrane. A cloud of simulated pERK proteins is controlled by the physics simulation, where diffusion is based on experimentally measured values and the electrodynamics are based on theoretical nano-fluid dynamics. The trajectories of pERK within the cytoplasm and through the 1250 nuclear pores on the nuclear surface is recorded and analyzed.


The simulation quickly demonstrates that pERKs moving solely by diffusion will rarely locate and come within capture distance of a nuclear pore. The addition of intracellular electrodynamics between charges on the nuclear pore complexes and on pERKs increases the number of successful translocations by allowing the electro-physical attractive effects to draw in pERKs from the cytoplasm. The effects of changes in intracellular shielding ion concentrations allowed for estimation of the “capture radius” under varying conditions.


The simulation allows a shift in perspective that is paramount in attempting to communicate the scale and dynamics of intracellular protein cascade mechanics. This work has allowed researchers to more fully understand the parameters involved in intracellular electrodynamics, such as shielding anion concentration and protein charge. As these effects are still far below the spatial resolution of currently available measurement technology this simulation is invaluable to researchers to visualize and study current hypotheses concerning protein dynamics.