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Measuring Microtubule Supertwist and Defects by Three-Dimensional-Force-Clamp Tracking of Single Kinesin‑1 Motors

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journal contribution
posted on 30.01.2018, 00:00 by Michael Bugiel, Aniruddha Mitra, Salvatore Girardo, Stefan Diez, Erik Schäffer
Three-dimensional (3D) nanometer tracking of single biomolecules provides important information about their biological function. However, existing microscopy approaches often have only limited spatial or temporal precision and do not allow the application of defined loads. Here, we developed and applied a high-precision 3D-optical-tweezers force clamp to track in vitro the 3D motion of single kinesin-1 motor proteins along microtubules. To provide the motors with unimpeded access to the whole microtubule lattice, we mounted the microtubules on topographic surface features generated by UV-nanoimprint lithography. Because kinesin-1 motors processively move along individual protofilaments, we could determine the number of protofilaments the microtubules were composed of by measuring the helical pitches of motor movement on supertwisted microtubules. Moreover, we were able to identify defects in microtubules, most likely arising from local changes in the protofilament number. While it is hypothesized that microtubule supertwist and defects can severely influence the function of motors and other microtubule-associated proteins, the presented method allows for the first time to fully map the microtubule lattice in situ. This mapping allows the correlation of motor-filament interactions with the microtubule fine-structure. With the additional ability to apply loads, we expect our 3D-optical-tweezers force clamp to become a valuable tool for obtaining a wide range of information from other biological systems, inaccessible by two-dimensional and/or ensemble measurements.

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