Persistent patterns in microtubule dipole lattices

Shubhendu Nandi, Neil F. Johnson, Joshua L. Cohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microtubules (MTs) are cytoskeletal protein polymers orchestrating a host of important cellular functions including, but not limited to, cell support, cell division, cell motility and cell transport. We construct a toy-model of the MT lattice composed of classical vector Ising spins (dipole moments) representing the tubulin molecules, the building block of MTs. Nearest-neighbor (NN) and next-nearest-neighbor (NNN) interactions are considered within an anisotropic dielectric medium. As a consequence of the helical topology, certain spin orientations render the lattice frustrated with NN ferroelectric and NNN antiferroelectric bonds. Mapping the problem to a 2D Ising model and employing Monte Carlo methods we find that frozen clusters of spins exist at human physiological temperatures. This suggests a novel biological mechanism for storing information in living organisms, whereby the classical tubulin spin states become information bits and information gets stored in MTs in a way that is robust to thermal fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1350033
JournalAdvances in Complex Systems
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Ising model
  • Microtubule
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • dipole lattice
  • frustration
  • information storage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering


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