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Buckling of Microtubules in Living Cells Modulated by Surrounding Cytoplasm and Filament Network

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2011

Teng Li
Affiliation:
LiT@umd.edu, University of Maryland, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2181 Glenn L. Martin Hall, College Park, MD, 20742, United States
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Abstract

The mechanics of living cells is largely determined by their cytoskeleton, a dynamic network of microtubules and protein filaments in the cytoplasm. Microtubules are the most rigid cytoskeletal filaments and bear compressive forces in cells. Microtubules in vivo often severely buckle into short wavelengths. By contrast, isolated microtubules in vitro buckle into single long-wavelength arcs. To explain this discrepancy, we describe a mechanics model of microtubule buckling in living cells. The model shows that, while the buckling wavelength is set by the interplay between the microtubules and the elastic surrounding filament network, the buckling growth rate is set by the viscous cytoplasm. The quantitative results from the model shed light on developing new and robust methods to measure various in vivo mechanical properties of subcellular structures, e.g., bending rigidity of microtubules, elastic modulus of filament network, and viscosity of cytoplasm. The model can also be readily generalized to study the deformation of hard engineering materials at soft bio-interfaces.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Materials Research Society 2008

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