Limited Resources Induce Bistability in Microtubule Length Regulation

Matthias Rank, Aniruddha Mitra, Louis Reese, Stefan Diez, Erwin Frey

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The availability of protein is an important factor for the determination of the size of the mitotic spindle. Involved in spindle-size regulation is kinesin-8, a molecular motor and microtubule (MT) depolymerase, which is known to tightly control MT length. Here, we propose and analyze a theoretical model in which kinesin-induced MT depolymerization competes with spontaneous polymerization while supplies of both tubulin and kinesin are limited. In contrast to previous studies where resources were unconstrained, we find that, for a wide range of concentrations, MT length regulation is bistable. We test our predictions by conducting in vitro experiments and find that the bistable behavior manifests in a bimodal MT length distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


E. F. and S. D. acknowledge support by the German Excellence Initiative via the programs “NanoSystems Initiative Munich” (NIM) and “Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden” (cfaed), respectively. L. R. acknowledges support by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), via the research program “Membrane-cytoplasm protein shuttling”, Project No. 13PMP03.

FundersFunder number
German Excellence Initiative
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek13PMP03
National Institute of Metrology, China


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