Effects of dynein on microtubule mechanics and centrosome positioning. Academic Article uri icon


  • To determine forces on intracellular microtubules, we measured shape changes of individual microtubules following laser severing in bovine capillary endothelial cells. Surprisingly, regions near newly created minus ends increased in curvature following severing, whereas regions near new microtubule plus ends depolymerized without any observable change in shape. With dynein inhibited, regions near severed minus ends straightened rapidly following severing. These observations suggest that dynein exerts a pulling force on the microtubule that buckles the newly created minus end. Moreover, the lack of any observable straightening suggests that dynein prevents lateral motion of microtubules. To explain these results, we developed a model for intracellular microtubule mechanics that predicts the enhanced buckling at the minus end of a severed microtubule. Our results show that microtubule shapes reflect a dynamic force balance in which dynein motor and friction forces dominate elastic forces arising from bending moments. A centrosomal array of microtubules subjected to dynein pulling forces and resisted by dynein friction is predicted to center on the experimentally observed time scale, with or without the pushing forces derived from microtubule buckling at the cell periphery.

published proceedings

  • Mol Biol Cell

author list (cited authors)

  • Wu, J., Misra, G., Russell, R. J., Ladd, A., Lele, T. P., & Dickinson, R. B.

citation count

  • 44

complete list of authors

  • Wu, Jun||Misra, Gaurav||Russell, Robert J||Ladd, Anthony JC||Lele, Tanmay P||Dickinson, Richard B

publication date

  • October 2011