Crowder and surface effects on self-organization of microtubules

Sumon Sahu, Lena Herbst, Ryan Quinn, Jennifer L. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Microtubules are an essential physical building block of cellular systems. They are organized using specific crosslinkers, motors, and influencers of nucleation and growth. With the addition of antiparallel crosslinkers, microtubule self-organization patterns go through a transition from fanlike structures to homogeneous tactoid condensates in vitro. Tactoids are reminiscent of biological mitotic spindles, the cell division machinery. To create these organizations, we previously used polymer crowding agents. Here we study how altering the properties of the crowders, such as type, size, and molecular weight, affects microtubule organization. Comparing simulations with experiments, we observe a scaling law associated with the fanlike patterns in the absence of crosslinkers. Tactoids formed in the presence of crosslinkers show variable length, depending on the crowders. We correlate the subtle differences to filament contour length changes, affected by nucleation and growth rate changes induced by the polymers in solution. Using quantitative image analysis, we deduce that the tactoids differ from traditional liquid crystal organization, as they are limited in width irrespective of crowders and surfaces, and behave as solidlike condensates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062408
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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