Mechanosensitive channels are ion channels which act as cells' safety valves, opening when the osmotic pressure becomes too high and making cells avoid damage by releasing ions. They are found on the cellular membrane of a large number of organisms. They interact with each other by means of deformations they induce in the membrane. We show that collective dynamics arising from the interchannel interactions lead to first- and second-order phase transitions in the fraction of open channels in equilibrium relating to the formation of channel clusters. We show that this results in a considerable delay of the response of cells to osmotic shocks, and to an extreme cell-to-cell stochastic variations in their response times, despite the large numbers of channels present in each cell. We discuss how our results are relevant for E. coli.
|Journal||Physical Review E|
|Publication status||Published - 21 Aug 2017|