Collective dynamics of microtubule-based 3D active fluids from single microtubules†
Self-organization of kinesin-driven, microtubule-based 3D active fluids relies on the collective dynamics of single microtubules. However, the connection between macroscopic fluid flows and microscopic motion of microtubules remains unclear. In this work, the motion of single microtubules was characterized by means of 2D gliding assays and compared with the flows of 3D active fluids. While the scales of the two systems differ by ∼1000×, both were driven by processive, non-processive or an equal mixture of both molecular motor proteins. To search for the dynamic correlation between both systems, the motor activities were tuned by varying temperature and ATP concentration, and the changes in both systems were compared. Motor processivity played an important role in active fluid flows but only when the fluids were nearly motionless; otherwise, flows were dominated by hydrodynamic resistance controlled by sample size. Furthermore, while the motors’ thermal reaction led active fluids to flow faster with increasing temperature, such temperature dependence could be reversed by introducing temperature-varying depletants, emphasizing the potential role of the depletant in designing an active fluid's temperature response. The temperature response of active fluids was nearly immediate (≲10 s). Such a characteristic enables active fluids to be controlled with a temperature switch. Overall, this work not only clarifies the role of temperature in active fluid activity, but also sheds light on the underlying principles of the relationship between the collective dynamics of active fluids and the dynamics of their constituent single microtubules.