A1: Microtubule mechanics and turnover under cell-like physical constraints

Lead PI: Helmut Grubmüller, supported by Maxim Igaev
Collaborating PIs: Timo Betz, Stefan Klumpp, Sarah Köster, Peter Lénárt, Peter Sollich, Claudia Steinem
Overarching research question: What are the mechanisms of microtubule dynamics, plasticity and mechanical force production at the atomistic level?

The mechanochemical basis of microtubule growth and force generation, which is essential for the normal function and division of eukaryotic cells, remains elusive and controversial. In addition, microtubules bend and break in cells due to physical constraints, thus changing their mechanical properties locally and undergoing complex yet largely unexplained collective phenomena, e.g., softening and self-repair. By employing fully atomistic Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations, we investigate the mechanical and dynamical properties of complete microtubule lattices subject to external forces due to global or local mechanical deformations. In order to unify the atomistic insights gathered at various time-length scales in a physically coherent multiscale approach, we develop a super coarse-grained model of the microtubule self-assembly dynamics.

Core field: theoretical physics/mathematics

PhD training objectives: principles of computational physics; computational simulation methods; biomolecular kinetics and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics; collective phenomena; numerical mathematics