Swirling Instability of the Microtubule Cytoskeleton

David B. Stein, Gabriele De Canio, Eric Lauga, Michael J. Shelley, Raymond E. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the cellular phenomena of cytoplasmic streaming, molecular motors carrying cargo along a network of microtubules entrain the surrounding fluid. The piconewton forces produced by individual motors are sufficient to deform long microtubules, as are the collective fluid flows generated by many moving motors. Studies of streaming during oocyte development in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster have shown a transition from a spatially disordered cytoskeleton, supporting flows with onlyshort-ranged correlations, to an ordered state with a cell-spanning vortical flow. To test the hypothesis that this transition is driven by fluid-structure interactions, we study a discrete-filamentmodel and a coarse-grained continuum theory for motors moving on a deformable cytoskeleton, both ofwhich are shown to exhibit a swirling instability to spontaneous large-scale rotational motion, as observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number028103
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 13 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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