Controlling self-assembly of microtubule spools via kinesin motor density†
Active self-assembly, in which non-thermal energy is consumed by the system to put together building blocks, allows the creation of non-equilibrium structures and active materials. Microtubule spools assembled in gliding assays are one example of such non-equilibrium structures, capable of storing bending energies on the order of 105 kT. Although these structures arise spontaneously in experiments, the origin of microtubule spooling has long been debated. Here, using a stepwise kinesin gradient, we demonstrate that spool assembly can be controlled by the surface density of kinesin motors, showing that pinning of microtubules due to dead motors plays a dominant role in spool initiation.