Molecular Sorting by Electrical Steering of Microtubules in Kinesin-Coated Channels

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Science  12 May 2006:
Vol. 312, Issue 5775, pp. 910-914
DOI: 10.1126/science.1124258

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Integration of biomolecular motors in nanoengineered structures raises the intriguing possibility of manipulating materials on nanometer scales. We have managed to integrate kinesin motor proteins in closed submicron channels and to realize active electrical control of the direction of individual kinesin-propelled microtubule filaments at Y junctions. Using this technique, we demonstrate molecular sorting of differently labeled microtubules. We attribute the steering of microtubules to electric field–induced bending of the leading tip. From measurements of the orientation-dependent electrophoretic motion of individual, freely suspended microtubules, we estimate the net applied force on the tip to be in the picoNewton range and we infer an effective charge of 12 e per tubulin dimer under physiological conditions.

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