The Mitotic Crosslinking Protein PRC1 Acts Like a Mechanical Dashpot to Resist Microtubule Sliding

Dev Cell. 2020 Aug 10;54(3):367-378.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2020.06.017. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


Cell division in eukaryotes requires the regulated assembly of the spindle apparatus. The proper organization of microtubules within the spindle is driven by motor proteins that exert forces to slide filaments, whereas non-motor proteins crosslink filaments into higher-order motifs, such as overlapping bundles. It is not clear how active and passive forces are integrated to produce regulated mechanical outputs within spindles. Here, we employ simultaneous optical trapping and total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to directly measure the frictional forces produced by the mitotic crosslinking protein PRC1 that resist microtubule sliding. These forces scale with microtubule sliding velocity and the number of PRC1 crosslinks but do not depend on overlap length or PRC1 density within overlaps. Our results suggest that PRC1 ensembles act similarly to a mechanical dashpot, producing significant resistance against fast motions but minimal resistance against slow motions, allowing for the integration of diverse motor activities into a single mechanical outcome.

Keywords: PRC1; biophysics; central spindle; cytoskeleton; friction; microtubule-associated proteins; microtubules; mitosis; spindle mechanics; viscosity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinesins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / genetics
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Mitosis / physiology*
  • Spindle Apparatus / genetics
  • Spindle Apparatus / metabolism*


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • PRC1 protein, human
  • Kinesins