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Biophys J. 2006 May 15;90(10):3739-48. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Dielectric measurement of individual microtubules using the electroorientation method.

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Brain Developmental Research Group, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Japan.


Little is known about the electrostatic/dynamic properties of microtubules, which are considered to underlie their electrostatic interactions with various proteins such as motor proteins, microtubule-associated proteins, and microtubules themselves (lateral association of microtubules). To measure the dielectric properties of microtubules, we developed an experiment system in which the electroorientation of microtubules was observed under a dark-field microscope. Upon application of an alternating electric field (0.5-1.9 x 10(5) V/m, 10 kHz-3 MHz), the microtubules were oriented parallel to the field line in a few seconds because of the dipole moment induced along their long axes. The process of this orientation was analyzed based on a dielectric ellipsoid model, and the conductivity and dielectric constant of each microtubule were calculated. The analyses revealed that the microtubules were highly conductive, which is consistent with the counterion polarization model-counterions bound to highly negatively charged microtubules can move along the long axis, and this mobility might be the origin of the high conductivity. Our experiment system provides a useful tool to quantitatively evaluate the polyelectrolyte nature of microtubules, thus paving the way for future studies aiming to understand the physicochemical mechanism underlying the electrostatic interactions of microtubules with various proteins.

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