One, many and the nanometer collective: Dynein gliding assays show the way

Our 5 year long study on dynein can be summarized in the “one, many and collective” phrase. We have been able to show that teams of motors on a surface in a gliding assay appear to transport different lengths of microtubules differenty. In challenging experiments that went beyond qualitative, Kunalika Jain from the lab optimized a quantitative gliding assay that allows her to infer the change in 2D directionality of transpoted MTs.

Setup of the dynein gliding assay in simulation and experiment

Dynein Collective Transport: Simulation & Experiment (Jain et al. 2019 Soft Matter)

Given the details available at a single molecule level, we asked whether counter-intuitive inferences could be made about the role of length-dependent transport. Turns out due to the peculiar detachment mechanics and “search and capture”, MTs are indeed transported in a more directional manner when 3 um long filaments encounter approximately 10 motors or more. Why 10, why 3 um,.. read more in our paper by Jain, Khetan and Athale (2019) Soft Matter.

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