Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Matthew A. Glaser

Second Advisor

Meredith D. Betterton

Third Advisor

Noel Clark

Fourth Advisor

Leo Radzihovsky

Fifth Advisor

Franck Vernerey

Abstract

Active networks of filamentous proteins and crosslinking motor proteins play a critical role in many important cellular processes. One of the most important microtubule-motor protein assemblies is the mitotic spindle, a self-organized active liquid-crystalline structure that forms during cell division and that ultimately separates chromosomes into two daughter cells. Although the spindle has been intensively studied for decades, the physical principles that govern its self-organization and function remain mysterious. To evolve a better understanding of spindle formation, structure, and dynamics, I investigate course-grained models of active liquid-crystalline networks composed of microtubules, modeled as hard spherocylinders, in diffusive equilibrium with a reservoir of active crosslinks, modeled as hookean springs that can adsorb to microtubules and and translocate at finite velocity along the microtubule axis. This model is investigated using a combination of brownian dynamics and kinetic monte carlo simulation. I have further refined this model to simulate spindle formation and kinetochore capture in the fission yeast S. pombe. I then make predictions for experimentally realizable perturbations in motor protein presence and function in S. pombe.

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