Filamentous actin (F-actin), one of the constituents of the cytoskeleton, is believed to be the most important participant in the motion and mechanical integrity of eukaryotic cells. Traditionally, the viscoelastic moduli of F-actin networks have been measured by imposing a small mechanical strain and quantifying the resulting stress. The magnitude of the viscoelastic moduli, their concentration dependence and strain dependence, as well as the viscoelastic nature (solid-like or liquid-like) of networks of uncross-linked F-actin, have been the subjects of debate. Although this paper helps to resolve the debate and establishes the extent of the linear regime of F-actin networks' rheology, we report novel measurements of the high- frequency behavior of networks of F-actin, using a noninvasive light- scattering based technique, diffusing wave spectroscopy (DWS). Because no external strain is applied, our optical assay generates measurements of the mechanical properties of F-actin networks that avoid many ambiguities inherent in mechanical measurements. We observe that the elastic modulus has a small magnitude, no strain dependence, and a weak concentration dependence. Therefore, F-actin alone is not sufficient to generate the elastic modulus necessary to sustain the structural rigidity of most cells or support new cellular protrusions. Unlike previous studies, our measurements show that the mechanical properties of F-actin are highly dependent on the frequency content of the deformation. We show that the loss modulus unexpectedly dominates the elastic modulus at high frequencies, which are key for fast transitions. Finally, the measured mean square displacement of the optical probes, which is also generated by DWS measurements, offers new insight into the local bending fluctuations of the individual actin filaments and shows how they generate enhanced dissipation at short time scales.
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