F-actin and microtubule suspensions as indeterminate fluids

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Science  20 Mar 1987:
Vol. 235, Issue 4795, pp. 1511-1514
DOI: 10.1126/science.2881354


The viscosity of F-actin and microtubule suspensions has been measured as a function of shear rate with a Weissenberg rheogoniometer. At shear rates of less than 1.0 per second the viscosity of suspensions of these two structural proteins is inversely proportional to shear rate. These results are consistent with previous in vivo measurements of the viscosity of cytoplasm. This power law implies that shear stress is independent of shear rate; that is, shear stress is a constant at all shear rates less than 1.0 per second. Thus the flow profile of these fluids is indeterminate, or nearly so. This flow property may explain several aspects of intracellular motility in living cells. Possible explanations for this flow property are based on a recent model for semidilute suspensions of rigid rods or a classical friction model for liquid crystals.