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Response to alternating electric fields of tubulin dimers and microtubule ensembles in electrolytic solutions

Faculty Advisor




microtubules, solution conductance

Abstract (summary)

Microtubules (MTs), which are cylindrical protein filaments that play crucial roles in eukaryotic cell functions, have been implicated in electrical signalling as biological nanowires. We report on the small-signal AC (“alternating current”) conductance of electrolytic solutions containing MTs and tubulin dimers, using a microelectrode system. We find that MTs (212 nM tubulin) in a 20-fold diluted BRB80 electrolyte increase solution conductance by 23% at 100 kHz, and this effect is directly proportional to the concentration of MTs in solution. The frequency response of MT-containing electrolytes exhibits a concentration-independent peak in the conductance spectrum at 111 kHz (503 kHz FWHM that decreases linearly with MT concentration), which appears to be an intrinsic property of MT ensembles in aqueous environments. Conversely, tubulin dimers (42 nM) decrease solution conductance by 5% at 100 kHz under similar conditions. We attribute these effects primarily to changes in the mobility of ionic species due to counter-ion condensation effects, and changes in the solvent structure and solvation dynamics. These results provide insight into MTs’ ability to modulate the conductance of aqueous electrolytes, which in turn, has significant implications for biological information processing, especially in neurons, and for intracellular electrical communication in general.

Publication Information

Santelices, Iara B., Douglas E. Friesen, Clayton Bell, Cameron M. Hough, Jack Xiao, Aarat Kalra, Piyush Kar, Holly Freedman, Vahid Rezania, John D. Lewis, Karthik Shankar & Jack A. Tuszynski. Response to Alternating Electric Fields of Tubulin Dimers and Microtubule Ensembles in Electrolytic Solutions. Scientific Reports 2017; 7: 9594. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-09323-w


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Attribution (CC BY)