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Attention! End of traffic jam!
Date:11/7/2011

ng activity, it diffuses with the microtubule-brick into solution. However, due to the traffic jam of motor proteins, a fresh supply is already present. Hence, the rate of microtubule shortening is directly connected to the speed at which the single molecular motor depolymerizes the microtubule.

The situation changes dramatically if there are significantly less motor proteins in solution. In this case, the supply of motor proteins becomes the limiting factor. The disassembly speed is now governed by the quantity of motors arriving at the microtubule tip. Consequently the disassembly mechanism differs significantly from the one for higher motor concentrations. In particular, the depolymerization speed becomes length dependent. "From existing experiments, we knew that these collective effects are important for the system. What we didn't expect is that the properties of single motors completely vanish behind the motor group's performance", tells Louis Reese first author of the study.

With their calculations, the physicists from Munich contribute to a better understanding of existing experiments on microtubule disassembly. For example, a phenomenon discussed among scientists is that the speed at which microtubules are depolymerized by motors depends on the microtubule length: the longer the microtubule, the more motor proteins can bind to it. Their theoretical model explains these basic functional properties of this system and in this vein it puts the existing experimental results into a larger context.

"With this work we as theorists pass the ball back to experiments", reckons Erwin Frey. "It is essential for the comprehension of biological systems to identify and understand minimal functional units like the microtubule motor interaction. On this track the cell plays a central role with its multifarious building blocks and functions. To understand these effects in the living cell is a declared aim of biology and biophysics".


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Contact: Dr. Kathrin Bilgeri
kathrin.bilgeri@lmu.de
49-892-180-6938
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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