Microtubule alignment and manipulation using AC electrokinetics

Maruti Uppalapati, Ying Ming Huang, Thomas N. Jackson, William O. Hancock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The kinesin-microtubule system plays an important role in intracellular transport and is a model system for integrating biomotor-driven transport into microengineered devices. AC electrokinetics provides a novel tool for manipulating and organizing microtubules in solution, enabling new experimental geometries for investigating and controlling the interactions of microtubules and microtubule motors in vitro. By fabricating microelectrodes on glass substrates and generating AC electric fields across solutions of microtubules in low-ionic-strength buffers, bundles of microtubules are collected and aligned and the electrical properties of microtubules in solution are measured. The AC electric fields result in electro-osmotic flow, electrothermal flow, and dielectrophoresis of microtubules, which can be controlled by varying the solution conductivity, AC frequency, and electrode geometry. By mapping the solution conductivity and AC frequency over which positive dielectrophoresis occurs, the apparent conductivity of taxol-stabilized bovine-brain microtubules in PIPES buffer is measured to be 250mSm-1. By maximizing dielectrophoretic forces and minimizing electro-osmotic and electrothermal flow, microtubules are assembled into opposed asters. These experiments demonstrate that AC electrokinetics provides a powerful new tool for kinesin-driven transport applications and for investigating the role of microtubule motors in development and maintenance of the mitotic spindle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1381
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials


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