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J.A. Tuszynski, M.V. Sataric, S. Portet and J.M. Dixon: Gravitational symmetry breaking leads to polar liquid crystal phase of microtubules in vitro

J.A. Tuszynski, M.V. Sataric, S. Portet and J.M. Dixon: Gravitational symmetry breaking leads to polar liquid crystal phase of microtubules in vitro

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Published by: Uloff on Dec 14, 2011
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Editorial Manager(tm) for Journal of Biological PhysicsManuscript DraftManuscript Number:Title: Gravitational symmetry breaking leads to polar liquid crystal phase of microtubules in vitroArticle Type: Special Issue ICBP2004 ManuscriptSection/Category:Keywords: microtubules, microgravity, tubulin, assembly, pattern formationCorresponding Author: Prof. J.A. Tuszynski,Corresponding Author's Institution: University Of AlbertaFirst Author: J.A. TuszynskiOrder of Authors: J.A. Tuszynski; M. V. Sataric, Ph.D.; Stephanie Portet, Ph.D.; J. M. Dixon, Ph.D.Manuscript Region of Origin:Abstract: Recent space-flight experiments performed by Tabony's team provided further evidence that amicrogravity environment strongly affects the spatio-temporal organization of microtubule assemblies.Characteristic time and length scales were found that govern the organization of oriented bundles underEarth's gravitational field. No such organization has been observed in microgravity environment. This paperdiscusses physical mechanisms resulting in pattern formation under gravity and its disappearance inmicrogravity. The subtle interplay between chemical kinetics, diffusion, gravitational drift, thermal fluctuations,electrostatic interactions and liquid crystalline characteristics provides a plausible scenario.
 
Gravitational symmetry breaking leads to polar liquidcrystal phase of microtubules in vitro
J.A. Tuszynski,
1
M.V. Sataric,
1
S. Portet,
1
J.M. Dixon
2
1
Department of Physics, University of Alberta,Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2J1 Canada.
2
Department of Physics, University of Warwick,Coventry, CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.
To whom correspondence should be addressed; E-mail: jtus@phys.ualberta.ca.
Recent space-flight experiments performed by Tabony’s team provided fur-therevidencethatamicrogravityenvironmentstronglyaffectsthespatio-temporalorganization of microtubule assemblies. Characteristic time and length scaleswere found that govern the organization of oriented bundles under Earth’sgravitational field (GP). No such organization has been observed in micro-gravity environment. This paper discusses physical mechanisms resulting inpattern formation under gravity and its disappearance in microgravity. Thesubtle interplay between chemical kinetics, diffusion, gravitational drift, ther-mal fluctuations, electrostatic interactions and liquid crystalline characteris-tics provides a plausible scenario.
Microtubules (MT’s) are the key protein filaments of the cytoskeleton in eukaryotic cells(
1
). In their assembly behavior growing phases are stochastically interrupted by catastrophicdepolymerization events (CDE) caused by so-called dynamical instability (
2
). So far, only1
* Manuscript
 
sporadic efforts have been made to understand the influence of electrical (
3
), gravitational (
4
),magnetic (
5
) and electromagnetic (
) fields on MT dynamics.Symmetry breaking is a powerful concept relevant in various fields including developmen-tal biology where spatial symmetry breaking elucidates pattern formation in tissue develop-ment (
). Transitions mediated by chemically reactive substances leading to symmetry break-ing phenomena are crucial in the establishment of physico-chemical self-organization in biol-ogy (
7,8
).Many components of living cells (
9
) such as cell membranes, DNA in chromosomes, pro-teins in muscle and in connective tissues (collagens), exhibit liquid crystal (LQ) properties.Present physical considerations demonstrate that under GF,
in vitro
MT’s assemblies behave astypical polar LQ’s.Tabony’s team in a series of experiments (TE) demonstrated a significant role of GF in theformation of spatio-temporal patterns by assemblies of MT’s
in vitro
(
10–13
). In these experi-ments, purified tubulin (TB) was polymerized by warming the sample from
7
to
37
in anappropriate solution. MT’s were assembled in rectangular spectrometer cells with dimensions
40
×
10
×
1
mm
3
. The MT assembly in TE exhibits a gradual and progressive self-organizationlasting approximately
12
hours and eventually reaching equilibrium macroscopic patterns of both MT concentration and orientation. The most striking result obtained when the largest di-mension (
40
mm
) is parallel to the GF shows a pattern of horizontal stripes of MT’s. Whenthe smallest dimension (
1
mm
) is parallel to the GF, circular vortex-like morphologies appear.Therefore, the sample’s orientation with respect to the GF crucially and irreversibly affects MTself-assembly if the process is unperturbed for at least the first
6
minutes. Once this critical pe-riod has passed, the morphology of self-organization that subsequently develops is independentof sample orientation.Under microgravity conditions (
2
×
10
4
g
) (
13
), specimens which underwent the self-2

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