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Why Microtubules Run in Circles: Mechanical Hysteresis of the Tubulin Lattice

Abstract : The fate of every eukaryotic cell subtly relies on the exceptional mechanical properties of microtubules. Despite significant efforts, understanding their unusual mechanics remains elusive. One persistent, unresolved mystery is the formation of long-lived arcs and rings, e.g., in kinesin-driven gliding assays. To elucidate their physical origin we develop a model of the inner workings of the microtubule's lattice, based on recent experimental evidence for a conformational switch of the tubulin dimer. We show that the microtubule lattice itself coexists in discrete polymorphic states. Metastable curved states can be induced via a mechanical hysteresis involving torques and forces typical of few molecular motors acting in unison, in agreement with the observations.
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Falko Ziebert, Herve Mohrbach, Igor M. Kulic. Why Microtubules Run in Circles: Mechanical Hysteresis of the Tubulin Lattice. Physical Review Letters, American Physical Society, 2015, 114 (14), pp.148101. ⟨10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.148101⟩. ⟨hal-01513174⟩

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