Multiscale polar theory of microtubule and motor-protein assemblies

Tong Gao, Robert Blackwell, Matthew A. Glaser, M. D. Betterton, Michael J. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microtubules and motor proteins are building blocks of self-organized subcellular biological structures such as the mitotic spindle and the centrosomal microtubule array. These same ingredients can form new "bioactive" liquid-crystalline fluids that are intrinsically out of equilibrium and which display complex flows and defect dynamics. It is not yet well understood how microscopic activity, which involves polarity-dependent interactions between motor proteins and microtubules, yields such larger-scale dynamical structures. In our multiscale theory, Brownian dynamics simulations of polar microtubule ensembles driven by cross-linking motors allow us to study microscopic organization and stresses. Polarity sorting and cross-link relaxation emerge as two polar-specific sources of active destabilizing stress. On larger length scales, our continuum Doi-Onsager theory captures the hydrodynamic flows generated by polarity-dependent active stresses. The results connect local polar structure to flow structures and defect dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number048101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 27 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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