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A Thermodynamic Model of Microtubule Assembly and Disassembly

Piette, B.M.A.G.; Liu, J.; Peeters, K.; Smertenko, A.; Hawkins, T.; Deeks, M.; Quinlan, R.; Zakrzewski, W.J.; Hussey, P.J.

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A. Smertenko

M. Deeks

R. Quinlan

W.J. Zakrzewski


Microtubules are self-assembling polymers whose dynamics are essential for the normal function of cellular processes including chromosome separation and cytokinesis. Therefore understanding what factors effect microtubule growth is fundamental to our understanding of the control of microtubule based processes. An important factor that determines the status of a microtubule, whether it is growing or shrinking, is the length of the GTP tubulin microtubule cap. Here, we derive a Monte Carlo model of the assembly and disassembly of microtubules. We use thermodynamic laws to reduce the number of parameters of our model and, in particular, we take into account the contribution of water to the entropy of the system. We fit all parameters of the model from published experimental data using the GTP tubulin dimer attachment rate and the lateral and longitudinal binding energies of GTP and GDP tubulin dimers at both ends. Also we calculate and incorporate the GTP hydrolysis rate. We have applied our model and can mimic published experimental data, which formerly suggested a single layer GTP tubulin dimer microtubule cap, to show that these data demonstrate that the GTP cap can fluctuate and can be several microns long.


Piette, B., Liu, J., Peeters, K., Smertenko, A., Hawkins, T., Deeks, M., …Hussey, P. (2009). A Thermodynamic Model of Microtubule Assembly and Disassembly. PLoS ONE, 4(8), Article e6378.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 11, 2009
Deposit Date Nov 22, 2010
Publicly Available Date Jan 24, 2012
Journal PLoS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 8
Article Number e6378


Published Journal Article (436 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
Copyright: © 2009 Piette et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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