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We present a computational model to test a “polarity sorting” mechanism for microtubule (MT) organization in developing axons. We simulate the motor-based axonal transport of short MTs to test the hypothesis that immobilized cytoplasmic dynein motors transport short MTs with their plus ends leading, so “mal-oriented” MTs with minus-end-out are transported toward the cell body while “correctly” oriented MTs are transported in the anterograde direction away from the soma. We find that dynein-based transport of short MTs can explain the predominately plus-end-out polarity pattern of axonal MTs but that transient attachments of plus-end-directed motor proteins and nonmotile cross-linker proteins are needed to explain the frequent pauses and occasional reversals observed in live-cell imaging of MT transport. Static cross-linkers increase the likelihood of a stalled “tug-of-war” between retrograde and anterograde forces on the MT, providing an explanation for the frequent pauses of short MTs and the immobility of longer MTs. We predict that inhibition of the proposed static cross-linker will produce disordered transport of short MTs and increased mobility of longer MTs. We also predict that acute inhibition of cytoplasmic dynein will disrupt the polarity sorting of MTs by increasing the likelihood of “incorrect” sorting of MTs by plus-end-directed motors.


This article was originally published in Molecular Biology of the Cell. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Molecular Biology of the Cell

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


© 2017 Craig et al.

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