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Mechanics of Microtubules Buckling Supported by Cytoplasm

Hanqing Jiang's picture

The cytoskeleton provides the mechanical scaffold and maintains the integrity of cells.  It is usually believed that one type of cytoskeleton biopolymer, microtubules, bear compressive force.  In vitro experiments found that isolated microtubules may form an Euler buckling pattern with a long wavelength for very small compressive force.  This, however, does not agree with in vivo experiments where microtubules buckle with short-wavelength.  In order to understand the structural role of microtubules in vivo, we (Jiaping Zhang and Hanqing Jiang) developed a mechanics model to study microtubule buckling supported by cytoplasm.  We found that the ability for a cell to sustain compressive force does not solely rely on microtubules, but is also supported by the elasticity of cytoplasm. The relatively stiff microtubules and compliant cytoplasm are combined to provide a scaffold for compressive force.

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Teng Li's picture

Interesting paper. In an earlier paper, we worked on a mechanics model to explain the different buckling behavior of microtubules in vivo and in vitro.  The results echo with the above paper.

Li, T., A mechanics model of microtubule buckling in living cells. Journal of Biomechanics , 41, 1722-1729 (2008), doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.03.003

One comment. In both papers, the microtubules are modeled as isotropic elastic materials, while indeed the microtubules are rather anisotropic. Such anisotropic behaviors may lead to quantitative, but not qualitative change in the buckling behavior of microtubules. This should be something to be addressed later on.

Hanqing Jiang's picture

Dear Teng:

Thanks for pointing out your paper on the same topic. Yes, I agree. Anisotropy or an accurate material model of microtubules, as well as the cytoplasm are needed to have quantitative understanding of this problem.

Hi, Nice to find your information here.

It is a long time not to make the contaction with you, my classmate.

Congradulation for your achievements.

Wenhua Wu

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