Bursts of active transport in living cells

Bo Wang, James Kuo, Steve Granick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We show, using a large new data set, that the temporally resolved speed of active cargo transport in living cells follows a scaling law over several decades of time and length. The statistical regularities display a time-averaged shape that we interpret to reflect stress buildup, followed by rapid release. The scaling power law agrees quantitatively with those reported in inanimate systems (jammed colloids and granular media, and magnetic Barkhausen noise), suggesting a common origin in pushing through a crowded environment in a weak force regime. The implied regulation of the speed of active cellular transport due to environmental obstruction results in bursts of speed and acceleration. These findings extend the classical notion of molecular crowding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number208102
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Nov 12 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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