The cytoskeleton provides eukaryotic cells with mechanical support and helps them to perform their biological functions. It is predominantly composed of a network of semiflexible polar protein filaments. In addition, there are many accessory proteins that bind to these filaments, regulate their assembly, link them to organelles and provide the motors that either move the organelles along the filaments or move the filaments themselves. A natural approach to such a multiple particle system is the study of its collective excitations. I review some recent work on the theoretical description of the emergence of a number of particular collective motile behaviours from the interactions between different elements of the cytoskeleton. In order to do this, close analogies have been made to the study of driven soft condensed matter systems. However, it emerges naturally that a description of these soft active motile systems gives rise to new types of collective phenomena not seen in conventional soft systems. I discuss the implications of these results and perspectives for the future.
One contribution of 23 to a Triennial Issue ‘Mathematics and physics’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society