Nanomechanics of Microtubules

Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 248101 – Published 21 November 2002
A. Kis, S. Kasas, B. Babić, A. J. Kulik, W. Benoît, G. A. D. Briggs, C. Schönenberger, S. Catsicas, and L. Forró


We have determined the mechanical anisotropy of a single microtubule by simultaneously measuring the Young’s and the shear moduli in vitro. This was achieved by elastically deforming the microtubule deposited on a substrate tailored by electron-beam lithography with a tip of an atomic force microscope. The shear modulus is 2 orders of magnitude lower than the Young’s, giving rise to a length-dependent flexural rigidity of microtubules. The temperature dependence of the microtubule’s bending stiffness in the (540)°C range shows a strong variation upon cooling coming from the increasing interaction between the protofilaments.


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  • Received 16 August 2002
  • Published 21 November 2002

© 2002 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

A. Kis1,*, S. Kasas2,3, B. Babić4, A. J. Kulik1, W. Benoît1, G. A. D. Briggs1,†, C. Schönenberger4, S. Catsicas2, and L. Forró1

  • 1Institute of Physics of Complex Matter, EPFL, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2Institut de Neurosciences, EPFL, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 3Institut de Biologie Cellulaire et de Morphologie, UNIL, CH-1005 Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 4Institute of Physics, University of Basel, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland

  • *Corresponding author.Email address:
  • Visiting from Department of Materials, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3PH, United Kingdom.

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