Collective behavior of minus-ended motors in mitotic microtubule asters gliding toward DNA
Authors: Athale CA, Dinarina A, Nedelec F, Karsenti E.
CellNetworks People: Nédélec François
Journal: Phys Biol. 2014 Feb;11(1):016008

Microtubules (MTs) nucleated by centrosomes form star-shaped structures referred to as asters. Aster motility and dynamics is vital for genome stability, cell division, polarization and differentiation. Asters move either toward the cell center or away from it. Here, we focus on the centering mechanism in a membrane independent system of Xenopus cytoplasmic egg extracts. Using live microscopy and single particle tracking, we find that asters move toward chromatinized DNA structures. The velocity and directionality profiles suggest a random-walk with drift directed toward DNA. We have developed a theoretical model that can explain this movement as a result of a gradient of MT length dynamics and MT gliding on immobilized dynein motors. In simulations, the antagonistic action of the motor species on the radial array of MTs leads to a tug-of-war purely due to geometric considerations and aster motility resembles a directed random-walk. Additionally, our model predicts that aster velocities do not change greatly with varying initial distance from DNA. The movement of asymmetric asters becomes increasingly super-diffusive with increasing motor density, but for symmetric asters it becomes less super-diffusive. The transition of symmetric asters from superdiffusive to diffusive mobility is the result of number fluctuations in bound motors in the tug-of-war. Overall, our model is in good agreement with experimental data in Xenopus cytoplasmic extracts and predicts novel features of the collective effects of motor-MT interactions.