Mechanisms of microtubule guiding on microfabricated kinesin-coated surfaces: Chemical and topographic surface patterns

John Clemmens, Henry Hess, Ryan Lipscomb, Yael Hanein, Karl F. Böhringer, Carolyn M. Matzke, George D. Bachand, Bruce C. Bunker, Viola Vogel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Cells regulate active transport of intracellular cargo using motor proteins. Recent nanobiotechnology efforts aim to adapt motor proteins to power the movement and assembly of synthetic materials. A motor-protein-based nanoscale transport system (molecular shuttle) requires that the motion of the shuttles be guided along tracks. This study investigates the principles by which microtubules, serving as shuttle units, are guided along micrometer-scale kinesin-coated chemical and topographical tracks, where the efficiency of guidance is determined by events at the track boundary. Thus, we measure the probability of guiding as microtubules reach the track boundary of (1) a chemical edge between kinesin-coated and kinesin-free surfaces, (2) a topography-only wall coated completely with kinesin, and (3) a kinesin-free wall next to a kinesin-coated bottom surface (topography and chemistry combined). We present a guiding mechanism for each surface type that takes into account the physical properties of microtubule filaments and the surface properties (geometry, chemistry), and elucidate the contributions of surface topography and chemistry. Our experimental and theoretical results show that track edges that combine both topography and chemistry guide microtubules most frequently (approximately 90% of all events). By applying the principles of microtubule guidance by microfabricated surfaces, one may design and build motor-protein-powered devices optimized for transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10967-10974
Number of pages8
Issue number26
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


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