Polymerization ratchets formed by the assembly of actin filaments and microtubules are possibly the simplest realizations of biological thermal ratchets. A variety of experimental evidence exists that significant forces are generated by these processes, but quantitative studies lag far behind similar studies for molecular motors such as kinesin and myosin. Here we present a discussion of the theory of polymerization ratchets as well as experimental techniques used in our laboratory for the study of forces generated by single growing microtubules. Data obtained with these techniques provide us with valuable information that may eventually allow us to distinguish between different models for the growth of microtubules.

Appl. Phys. A
Theory of Biomolecular Matter

Dogterom, M., Janson, M., Faivre-Moskalenko, C., van der Horst, A., Kerssemakers, J. W. J., Tanase, C., & Mulder, B. (2002). Force generation by polymerizing microtubules. Appl. Phys. A, 75, 331–336.