Biomolecular motors are a unique class of intracellular proteins that are fundamental to a considerable number of physiological functions such as DNA replication, organelle trafficking, and cell division. The efficient transformation of chemical energy into useful work by these proteins provides strong motivation for their utilization as nanoscale actuators in ex vivo, meso- and macro-scale hybrid systems. Biomolecular motors involved in cytoskeletal transport are quite attractive models within this context due to their ability to direct the transport of nano-/micro-scale objects at rates significantly greater than diffusion, and in the absence of bulk fluid flow. As in living organisms, biomolecular motors involved in cytoskeletal transport (i.e., kinesin, dynein, and myosin) function outside of their native environment to dissipatively self-assemble biological, biomimetic, and hybrid nanostructures that exhibit nonequilibrium behaviors such as self-healing. These systems also provide nanofluidic transport function in hybrid nanodevices where target analytes are actively captured, sorted, and transported for autonomous sensing and analytical applications. Moving forward, the implementation of biomolecular motors will continue to enable a wide range of unique functionalities that are presently limited to living systems, and support the development of nanoscale systems for addressing critical engineering challenges. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website. Conflict of interest: The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In recent years, an enhanced understanding of the mechanisms underlying photobleaching and photoblinking of fluorescent dyes has led to improved photoprotection strategies, such as reducing and oxidizing systems (ROXS) that reduce blinking, and oxygen scavenging systems to reduce bleaching. Excitation of fluorescent dyes can also result in damage to catalytic proteins (e.g., biomolecular motors), affecting the performance of integrated devices. Here, we characterized the motility of microtubules driven by kinesin motor proteins using various photoprotection strategies, including a microfluidic deoxygenation device. Impaired motility of microtubules was observed at high excitation intensities in the absence of photoprotection, as well as in the presence of an enzymatic oxygen scavenging system. In contrast, using a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic deoxygenation device and ROXS, not only were the fluorophores slower to bleach, but the velocity and fraction of microtubules moving over time remained unaffected even at high excitation intensities. Further, we demonstrate the importance of photoprotection by examining the effect of photodamage on the behavior of a switchable mutant of kinesin. Overall, these results demonstrate that improved photoprotection strategies may have a profound impact on functional fluorescently labeled biomolecules in integrated devices.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microtubules (MTs) are hollow biopolymeric filaments that function to define the shape of eukaryotic cells, serve as a platform for intracellular vesicular transport, and separate chromosomes during mitosis. One means of physiological regulation of MT mechanics and dynamics, critical to their adaptability in such processes, is through electrostatics due to the strong polyelectrolyte nature of MTs. Here, we show that in the presence of physiologically pertinent amounts of divalent salts, MTs experience a dramatic increase in persistence length or stiffness, which is counter to theoretical expectations and experimental observations in similar systems (e.g., DNA). Divalent salt-dependent effects on MT dynamics were also observed with respect to suppressing depolymerization as well as reducing dispersion in kinesin-driven molecular motor transport assays. These results establish a novel mechanism by which MT dynamics, mechanics, and interaction with molecular motors may be regulated by physiologically relevant concentrations of divalent salts.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Microtransporters using cargo-laden microtubules propelled by kinesin motors are attractive for numerous applications in nanotechnology. In order to improve the efficiency of transport, movement of microtubules must be guided by microfabricated tracks. However, the mechanisms of the guiding methods used are not fully understood. Here, using a computer simulation, we systematically studied the guiding of such microtransporters by three different types of guiding methods: a chemical boundary, physical barrier, and their combination. The simulation reproduced the probabilities of guiding previously observed experimentally for the three methods. Moreover, the simulation provided further insight on the mechanisms of guiding, which overturn previous assumptions and models.
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