Biophysics articles within Nature Physics


  • Article |

    The growth of a biofilm—a bacterial colony attached to a surface—is governed by a trade-off between horizontal and vertical expansion. Now, it is shown that this process significantly depends on the contact angle at the biofilm’s edge.

    • Aawaz R. Pokhrel
    • , Gabi Steinbach
    •  & Peter J. Yunker
  • Article |

    A multiscale model of muscle as a fluid-filled sponge suggests that hydraulics limits rapid contractions and that the mechanical response of muscle is non-reciprocal.

    • Suraj Shankar
    •  & L. Mahadevan
  • Article |

    Supracellular cues play a key role in directing collective cell migration in processes such as wound healing and cancer invasion. New findings emphasize the importance of all length scales of the microenvironment in shaping cell migration patterns.

    • Mathilde Lacroix
    • , Bart Smeets
    •  & Pascal Silberzan
  • News & Views |

    A clear picture of how and why cells inevitably lose viability is still lacking. A dynamical systems view of starving bacteria points to a continuous energy expenditure needed for maintaining the right osmotic pressure as an important factor.

    • Ann Xu
    •  & Hyun Youk
  • Article |

    Active cell contraction drives hole nucleation, fracture and crack propagation in a tissue monolayer through a process reminiscent of dewetting thin films.

    • Jian-Qing Lv
    • , Peng-Cheng Chen
    •  & Bo Li
  • Research Briefing |

    The nuclear pore complex of eukaryotic cells senses the mechanical directionality of translocating proteins, favouring the passage of those that have a leading mechanically labile region. Adding an unstructured, mechanically weak peptide tag to a translocating protein increases its rate of nuclear import and accumulation, suggesting a biotechnological strategy to enhance the delivery of molecular cargos into the cell nucleus.

  • Perspective |

    Encouraging students to take ownership of their learning can improve their outcomes. This Perspective discusses ways to achieve this in the context of physics education and how digital technology can help Gen Z students in particular.

    • Nam-Hwa Kang
  • Perspective |

    Quantum computers promise to efficiently predict the structure and behaviour of molecules. This Perspective explores how this could overcome existing challenges in computational drug discovery.

    • Raffaele Santagati
    • , Alan Aspuru-Guzik
    •  & Clemens Utschig-Utschig
  • Article |

    Cytoplasmic flows in the fruit fly oocyte can reorganize cellular components. These structured vortical flows arise through self-organizing dynamics of microtubules, molecular motors and cytoplasm.

    • Sayantan Dutta
    • , Reza Farhadifar
    •  & Michael J. Shelley
  • Research Briefing |

    Studies of a biological active nematic fluid reveal a spontaneous self-constraint that arises between self-motile topological defects and mesoscale coherent flow structures. The defects follow specific contours of the flow field, on which vorticity and strain rate balance, and hence, contrary to expectation, they break mirror symmetry.

  • Article |

    The strengths of connections in networks of neurons are heavy-tailed, with some neurons connected much more strongly than most. Now a simple network model can explain how this heavy-tailed connectivity emerges across four different species.

    • Christopher W. Lynn
    • , Caroline M. Holmes
    •  & Stephanie E. Palmer
  • Article |

    Although using low-rank matrices is the go-to approach to model the dynamics of complex systems, its validity remains formally unconfirmed. An analysis of random networks and real-world data now sheds light on this low-rank hypothesis and its implications.

    • Vincent Thibeault
    • , Antoine Allard
    •  & Patrick Desrosiers
  • News & Views |

    Cells actively rearrange their cytoplasmic machinery to perform diverse functions. Now, friction forces generated between cytoplasmic components provide a physical basis for cell shape change.

    • Toby G. R. Andrews
    •  & Rashmi Priya
  • News & Views |

    Orderly or coherent multicellular flows are fundamental in biology, but their triggers are not understood. In epithelial tissues, the tug-of-war between cells is now shown to lead to intrinsic asymmetric distributions in cell polarities that drive such flows.

    • Guillermo A. Gomez
  • Comment |

    Macroscale analogies are a powerful conceptual tool with which we can gain insight into the structures and processes of the microscopic world of cell biology.

    • Michelle A. Baird
  • Editorial |

    Many advances in biological physics result from multidisciplinary collaborations. We celebrate the physics of life with a collection of articles that offer insight into successful interactions between researchers from different fields.

  • Article
    | Open Access

    Filaments of the FtsZ protein can form chiral assemblies. Now, active matter tools link the microscopic structure of active filaments to the large-scale collective phase of these assemblies.

    • Zuzana Dunajova
    • , Batirtze Prats Mateu
    •  & Martin Loose
  • Article |

    Wrinkling of cell nuclei is associated with disease. During development, the nucleus behaves like a sheet of paper and the wrinkling amplitude can be manipulated without changing its pattern.

    • Jonathan A. Jackson
    • , Nicolas Romeo
    •  & Jasmin Imran Alsous
  • News & Views |

    Regenerative animals accurately regrow lost appendages. Now, research suggests that mechanical waves propagating from the amputation edge have a key role in this process.

    • Yutaka Matsubayashi
  • Comment |

    Physics of Life research in the UK is transforming scientific insight and translational impact. Here I discuss its disruptive potential and barriers to interdisciplinary research through the lens of the activities of one of its pioneers, Tom McLeish.

    • Mark C. Leake
  • News & Views |

    The two-component bacterial MinDE protein system is the simplest biological pattern-forming system ever reported. Now, it establishes a mechanochemical feedback loop fuelling the persistent motion of liposomes.

    • Kerstin Göpfrich
  • News & Views |

    A biomolecular motor exploits a rigid-to-flexible transition of a protein tether, which allows thermal fluctuations to draw together vesicle membranes. This entropic motor helps traffic material into and around cells.

    • Shamreen Iram
    •  & Michael Hinczewski
  • Article
    | Open Access

    ATPases can cyclically convert free energy into mechanical work. Now, it is shown that the GTPase Rab5 can also perform mechanical work as part of a two-component molecular motor with the tethering protein EEA1.

    • Anupam Singh
    • , Joan Antoni Soler
    •  & Shashi Thutupalli
  • News & Views |

    Developing tissues undergo collective cell movement and changes to their material properties, such as flow characteristics. Now tissue fluidity is linked to tissue growth.

    • Asako Shindo
  • News & Views |

    Biomolecular condensates compartmentalize and concentrate cellular components without the delimitation of a lipid membrane. The protein VASP is now shown to condense, resulting in the reorganization of actin, a key component of the cell cytoskeleton.

    • Julie Plastino
  • Research Briefing |

    A DNA-based nanorobotic arm connected to a base plate through a flexible joint can be used to store and release mechanical energy. The joint acts as a torsion spring that is wound up by rotating the arm using external electric fields and is released using a high-frequency electrical pulse.

  • Article |

    The protein VASP can undergo liquid–liquid phase separation. The interplay between the surface tension of the VASP droplet and actin polymerization controls the bundling of actin filaments, a necessary step for many cellular processes.

    • Kristin Graham
    • , Aravind Chandrasekaran
    •  & Jeanne C. Stachowiak
  • News & Views |

    Epithelial tissues cover our organs and play an important role as physical barriers. The conditions leading to spontaneous hole formation in monolayer epithelia, which challenge epithelial integrity, have now been revealed.

    • Tatiana Merle
    •  & Magali Suzanne