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Conventional analysis of movement on non-flat surfaces like the plasma membrane makes Brownian motion appear anomalous.

Journal article
Authors Jeremy Adler
Ida-Maria Sintorn
Robin Strand
Ingela Parmryd
Published in Communications biology
Volume 2
Pages 12
ISSN 2399-3642
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Biomedicine
Pages 12
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-018-0240-...
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.f...
Subject categories Cell Biology, Molecular biophysics, Medical cell biology

Abstract

Cells are neither flat nor smooth, which has serious implications for prevailing plasma membrane models and cellular processes like cell signalling, adhesion and molecular clustering. Using probability distributions from diffusion simulations, we demonstrate that 2D and 3D Euclidean distance measurements substantially underestimate diffusion on non-flat surfaces. Intuitively, the shortest within surface distance (SWSD), the geodesic distance, should reduce this problem. The SWSD is accurate for foldable surfaces but, although it outperforms 2D and 3D Euclidean measurements, it still underestimates movement on deformed surfaces. We demonstrate that the reason behind the underestimation is that topographical features themselves can produce both super- and subdiffusion, i.e. the appearance of anomalous diffusion. Differentiating between topography-induced and genuine anomalous diffusion requires characterising the surface by simulating Brownian motion on high-resolution cell surface images and a comparison with the experimental data.

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