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Flagella-like Beating of a Single Microtubule

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posted on 18.04.2019, 00:00 by Andrej Vilfan, Smrithika Subramani, Eberhard Bodenschatz, Ramin Golestanian, Isabella Guido
Kinesin motors can induce a buckling instability in a microtubule with a fixed minus end. Here we show that by modifying the surface with a protein-repellent functionalization and using clusters of kinesin motors, the microtubule can exhibit persistent oscillatory motion resembling the beating of sperm flagella. The observed period is of the order of 1 min. From the experimental images we theoretically determine a distribution of motor forces that explains the observed shapes using a maximum likelihood approach. A good agreement is achieved with a small number of motor clusters acting simultaneously on a microtubule. The tangential forces exerted by a cluster are mostly in the range 0–8 pN toward the microtubule minus end, indicating the action of 1 or 2 kinesin motors. The lateral forces are distributed symmetrically and mainly below 10 pN, while the lateral velocity has a strong peak around zero. Unlike well-known models for flapping filaments, kinesins are found to have a strong “pinning” effect on the beating filaments. Our results suggest new strategies to utilize molecular motors in dynamic roles that depend sensitively on the stress built-up in the system.

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