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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2014, Article ID 601898, 6 pages
Research Article

Slow Diffusion Underlies Alternation of Fast and Slow Growth Periods of Microtubule Assembly

Department of Botany, Oklahoma State University, 301 Physical Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA

Received 22 November 2013; Accepted 18 December 2013; Published 30 January 2014

Academic Editors: A. Arcovito and A. Carotenuto

Copyright © 2014 Ming Yang. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In vitro microtubule assembly exhibits a rhythmic phenomenon, that is, fast growth periods alternating with slow growth periods. Mechanism underlying this phenomenon is unknown. Here a simple diffusion mechanism coupled with small diffusion coefficients is proposed to underlie this phenomenon. Calculations based on previously published results demonstrate that such a mechanism can explain the differences in the average duration of the interval encompassing a fast growth period and a slow growth period in in vitro microtubule assembly experiments in different conditions. Because no parameter unique to the microtubule assembly process is involved in the analysis, the proposed mechanism is expected to be generally applicable to heterogeneous chemical reactions. Also because biological systems are characterized by heterogeneous chemical reactions, the diffusion-based rhythmic characteristic of heterogeneous reactions is postulated to be a fundamental element in generating rhythmic behaviors in biological systems.