The team, from The University of Texas at Austin, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany and Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, reported their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on July 5.
"We found that the microtubules grow stiffer as they grow longer, a very unusual and surprising result," said Ernst-Ludwig Florin, assistant professor with the Center of Nonlinear Dynamics at The University of Texas at Austin. "This will have a big impact on our understanding of how microtubules function in the cell and on advancing materials research.
"To my knowledge, no manmade material has this property--to become stiffer as it elongates," said Florin. "This research could lead to the design of novel materials based on this biological structure."
Microtubules, which are about 25 nanometers in diameter, play an essential role in many cellular processes, acting as girders of support for the cell and tracks along which organelles--structures in cells that perform specialized functions--can move. They are also essential components of flagella and cilia, the extensions of some cells that give them movement.
Florin and his colleagues measured the stiffness and length of cellular microtubules using a "single-particle tracking" technique. They attached yellow-green fluorescent beads to the tips of microtubules of various lengths and measured the position of the bead by analyzing frame-by-frame videos of the beads moving in solution. (The beads were 250 or 500 nanometers in diameter.)
The changes in the beads' position were used to calculate the stiffness of the filaments they were attached to, through a method recently developed by the theoretical physicists on the research team.
To the surprise of the scientists, they found that the longer the filament, the more rigid it became.
Florin and his coauthors attribute the microtubules' unique properties to their molecular architecture. The nanometer-sized filaments are hollow tubes made of tubulin proteins that bind to each other in ways that give them the ability to be both flexible and stiff. Flexibility is important for microtubules as they grow and change in cells, while rigidity is important when cells need support.
"Microtubules are optimally designed to give the maximum of mechanical performance at a minimum cost for the cell," said Francesco Pampaloni, a physical chemist at EMBL.
The new finding about the microtubules' properties could provide insights into using the filaments as models for the development of nano-materials.
Ernst-Ludwig Florin | EurekAlert!
Magnesium magnificent for plasmonic applications
23.05.2018 | Rice University
New concept for structural colors
18.05.2018 | Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy