Active dynamic processes of cells are largely driven by the cytoskeleton, a complex and adaptable semiflexible polymer network, motorized by mechanoenzymes. Small dimensions, confined geometries, and hierarchical structures make it challenging to probe dynamics and mechanical response of such networks. Embedded semiflexible probe polymers can serve as nonperturbing multiscale probes to detect force distributions in active polymer networks. We show here that motor-induced forces transmitted to the probe polymers are reflected in nonequilibrium bending dynamics, which we analyze in terms of spatial eigenmodes of an elastic beam under steady-state conditions. We demonstrate how these active forces induce correlations among the mode amplitudes, which furthermore break time-reversal symmetry. This leads to a breaking of detailed balance in this mode space. We derive analytical predictions for the magnitude of resulting probability currents in mode space in the white-noise limit of motor activity. We relate the structure of these currents to the spatial profile of motor-induced forces along the probe polymers and provide a general relation for observable currents on two-dimensional hyperplanes.
Gladrow, J., Broedersz, C. P., & Schmidt, C. F. (2017). Nonequilibrium dynamics of probe filaments in actin-myosin networks. Physical Review E, 96(2). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.96.022408