Multiscale study of counterion-induced attraction and bundle formation of F-actin using an Ising-like mean-field model.
An Ising-like counterion-binding model is developed and solved by a mean-field method. For G-actin, the calculated affinity constants of all the binding sites ranging from loose to tight binding match the experimental data. The model is used to calculate the interaction energy between two F-actin filaments. Within a certain counterion concentration range, a rapidly decaying attractive force between two parallel filaments is produced not only by the correlation of the counterion distributions on the two filaments, but also by the correlation of the configurations of the two filaments with fixed counterion positions, which has been ignored in previous calculations. The bundling energy depends strongly on the configuration of the filaments. Upon bundling, the tightly bound counterion site is not affected, but the medium and loosely bound ones are. The model reproduces the observed minimal divalent counterion concentration for bundling, and naturally predicts the resolubilization of bundles which is seen in recent experiments. At the optimal counterion concentration, we obtain a bundling energy of approximately -0.01 eV per monomer along the filament. The counterion valence strongly affects the optimal counterion concentration, but has only minor effects on the optimal bundling energy. We show that the attractive potential between filaments can be simplified as the sum of interactions between their monomers. This simplification makes it possible to calculate the exact free energy of a two-F-actin-filament system. We are thus able to probe the effects of filament length on F-actin bundling and obtain a critical length for bundling of 59 monomers at 1 microM monomer concentration and pH=7.2.