Control of molecular shuttles by designing electrical and mechanical properties of microtubules

Naoto Isozaki, Hirofumi Shintaku, Hidetoshi Kotera, Taviare L. Hawkins, Jennifer L. Ross, Ryuji Yokokawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Kinesin-driven microtubules have been focused on to serve as molecular transporters, called “molecular shuttles,” to replace micro/nanoscale molecular manipulations necessitated in micro total analysis systems. Although transport, concentration, and detection of target molecules have been demonstrated, controllability of the transport directions is still a major challenge. Toward broad applications of molecular shuttles by defining multiple moving directions for selective molecular transport, we integrated a bottom-up molecular design of microtubules and a top-down design of a microfluidic device. The surface charge density and stiffness of microtubules were controlled, allowing us to create three different types of microtubules, each with different gliding directions corresponding to their electrical and mechanical properties. The measured curvature of the gliding microtubules enabled us to optimize the size and design of the device for molecular sorting in a top-down approach. The integrated bottom-up and top-down design achieved separation of stiff microtubules from negatively charged, soft microtubules under an electric field. Our method guides multiple microtubules by integrating molecular control and microfluidic device design; it is not only limited to molecular sorters but is also applicable to various molecular shuttles with the high controllability in their movement directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaap4882
JournalScience Robotics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 27 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Control and Optimization
  • Artificial Intelligence


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