Flexural rigidity of individual microtubules measured by a buckling force with optical traps

Biophys J. 2006 Mar 1;90(5):1687-96. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.104.055483. Epub 2005 Dec 9.


We used direct buckling force measurements with optical traps to determine the flexural rigidity of individual microtubules bound to polystyrene beads. To optimize the accuracy of the measurement, we used two optical traps and antibody-coated beads to manipulate each microtubule. We then applied a new analytical model assuming nonaxial buckling. Paclitaxel-stabilized microtubules were polymerized from purified tubulin, and the average microtubule rigidity was calculated as 2.0 x 10(-24) Nm2 using this novel microtubule buckling system. This value was not dependent on microtubule length. We also measured the rigidity of paclitaxel-free microtubules, and obtained the value of 7.9 x 10(-24) Nm2, which is nearly four times that measured for paclitaxel-stabilized microtubules.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cattle
  • Elasticity
  • Lasers
  • Micromanipulation / methods*
  • Microtubules / chemistry*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tensile Strength