Measurement of the Force-Velocity Relation for Growing Microtubules

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Science  31 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5339, pp. 856-860
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5339.856

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Forces generated by protein polymerization are important for various forms of cellular motility. Assembling microtubules, for instance, are believed to exert pushing forces on chromosomes during mitosis. The force that a single microtubule can generate was measured by attaching microtubules to a substrate at one end and causing them to push against a microfabricated rigid barrier at the other end. The subsequent buckling of the microtubules was analyzed to determine both the force on each microtubule end and the growth velocity. The growth velocity decreased from 1.2 micrometers per minute at zero force to 0.2 micrometer per minute at forces of 3 to 4 piconewtons. The force-velocity relation fits well to a decaying exponential, in agreement with theoretical models, but the rate of decay is faster than predicted.

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