Image author Thierry Savin describes the latest Biophysical Journal cover, which depicts the slow transformation of the “bead-spring” model introduced in the paper the image is based on, Fibers with Integrated Mechano-Chemical Switches: Minimalistic Design Principles Derived from Fibronectin.
The cover image shows various fibronectin repeats, arranged into parallel chains, slowly transforming to the “bead-spring” model we introduced in our paper to describe such chains and their assemblies.
Each of our model repeats is able to unfold into an extended and active linear strand, and to refold back into the shown initial state. In the folded configuration, the center site is shielded, preventing it from being active. This way, we can model a conformation-induced switch.
The goal of the image was to convey the idea that our coarse-graining modeling approach retains, from the complicated atomic structure of the protein, the only feature we are interested in: its mechano-chemical switching under load. I first suggested this composition to coauthor Martin Kröger. Together with Daphne Warlamis and Clarisse Luap, we discussed the choice of colors and size to enhance the visual appeal of the image. Thus, the artistic effort put in the image was collective. We then showed the image to our colleagues, and decided to submit it as a cover for Biophysical Journal after their positive feedback. It is a great honor to be featured on the front page of the journal, and we hope the image is intriguing enough to attract the curiosity of other biophysicists.
I sometimes come across inspiring scientific pictures for my research. Being passionate about scientific visualization, I would try to turn them into meaningful designs. Other images may be found at www.biophysics.ethz.ch, and further research activities at www.complexfluids.ethz.ch.
– Thierry Savin