Coronavirus Information for the UC San Diego Community

Our leaders are working closely with federal and state officials to ensure your ongoing safety at the university. Stay up to date with the latest developments. Learn more.

Simulation of electric fields generated from microtubule vibrations

TitleSimulation of electric fields generated from microtubule vibrations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsThackston K.A, Deheyn DD, Sievenpiper D.F
Date Published2019/08
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2470-0045
Accession NumberWOS:000480690300008
Keywordsfrequency; physics

Microtubules are tubular proteins that form part of the cytoskeleton in eukaryotic cells. Because of their unique mechanical properties, many studies have theorized microtubules could show high-frequency mechanical vibrations. Others have further suggested these vibrations of the electrically polar microtubules could be a source of electric fields inside the cell that could serve some biological function, such as a role in organizing mitosis or also possibly in cell-to-cell communication. In this work, we use a transient method to simulate the electric fields that would be generated from a single microtubule supposing they could sustain vibrations. We evaluate the biological significance of the electric fields and the potential energy microtubules might exert on one another. Our simulation method allows us to evaluate vibrational modes that have not previously been studied. The simulations suggest the acoustic branch flexing mode would actually be the most electrically active. Our results suggest a single vibrating microtubule could potentially exert significant forces (those that exceed thermal energy) on biological dipoles or charges at distances larger then the Debye length, on the order of 10 nm from the surface of the microtubule, but interaction is not likely at greater distances.

Student Publication: 
Research Topics: