On the origins of the universal dynamics of endogenous granules in mammalian cells

Siva A. Vanapalli, Yixuan Li, Frieder Mugele, Michel H.G. Duits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Endogenous granules (EGs) that consist of lipid droplets and mitochondria have been commonly used to assess intracellular mechanical properties via multiple particle tracking microrheology (MPTM). Despite their widespread use, the nature of interaction of EGs with the cytoskeletal network and the type of forces driving their dynamics - both of which are crucial for the interpretation of the results from MPTM technique - are yet to be resolved. In this report, we study the dynamics of endogenous granules in mammalian cells using particle tracking methods. We find that the ensemble dynamics of EGs is diffusive in three types of mammalian cells (endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts), thereby suggesting an apparent universality in their dynamical behavior. Moreover, in a given cell, the amplitude of the mean-squared displacement for EGs is an order of magnitude larger than that of injected particles. This observation along with results from ATP depletion and temperature intervention studies suggests that cytoskeletal active forces drive the dynamics of EGs. To elucidate the dynamical origin of the diffusive-like nonthermal motion, we consider three active force generation mechanisms - molecular motor transport, actomyosin contractility and microtubule polymerization forces. We test these mechanisms using pharmacological interventions. Experimental evidence and model calculations suggest that EGs are intimately linked to microtubules and that microtubule polymerization forces drive their dy-namics. Thus, endogenous granules could serve as non-invasive probes for microtubule network dynamics in mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalMCB Molecular and Cellular Biomechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009


  • Actinmyosin contractility
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Microrheology
  • Microtubule polymerization
  • Molecular motor


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