Anomalous diffusion of single particles in cytoplasm

Biophys J. 2013 Apr 16;104(8):1652-60. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2013.01.049.


The crowded intracellular environment poses a formidable challenge to experimental and theoretical analyses of intracellular transport mechanisms. Our measurements of single-particle trajectories in cytoplasm and their random-walk interpretations elucidate two of these mechanisms: molecular diffusion in crowded environments and cytoskeletal transport along microtubules. We employed acousto-optic deflector microscopy to map out the three-dimensional trajectories of microspheres migrating in the cytosolic fraction of a cellular extract. Classical Brownian motion (BM), continuous time random walk, and fractional BM were alternatively used to represent these trajectories. The comparison of the experimental and numerical data demonstrates that cytoskeletal transport along microtubules and diffusion in the cytosolic fraction exhibit anomalous (nonFickian) behavior and posses statistically distinct signatures. Among the three random-walk models used, continuous time random walk provides the best representation of diffusion, whereas microtubular transport is accurately modeled with fractional BM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Diffusion
  • Microspheres*
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Motion
  • Xenopus