Local heating of molecular motors using single carbon nanotubes

Yuichi Inoue, Akihiko Ishijima

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Temperature globally affects all chemical processes and biomolecules in living cells. Elevating the temperature of an entire cell accelerates so many biomolecular reactions simultaneously that it is difficult to distinguish the various mechanisms involved. The ability to localize temperature changes to the nanometer range within a cell could provide a powerful new tool for regulating biomolecular activity at the level of individual molecules. The search for a nanoheater for biological research has prompted experiments with carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which have the highest conductivity of any known material. The adsorption of skeletal muscle myosin molecules along the length of single multi-walled CNTs (~10 μm) has allowed researchers to observe the ATP-driven sliding of fluorescently labeled actin filaments. In one study, red-laser irradiation focused on one end of a myosin-coated CNT was used to heat myosin motors locally without directly heating the surrounding water; this laser irradiation instantly accelerated the actin-filament sliding speeds from ~6 to ~12 μm/s in a reversible manner, indicating a local, real-time heating of myosin motors by approximately Δ12 K. Calculation of heat transfer using the finite element method, based on the estimated temperature along a single CNT with a diameter of 170 nm, indicated a high thermal conductivity of ~1540 Wm−1K−1 in solution, consistent with values measured in vacuum in earlier studies. Temperature distribution indicated by half-decrease distances was ~3660 nm along the length of the CNT and ~250 nm perpendicular to the length. These results suggest that single-CNT-based heating at the nanometer- or micrometer-range could be used to regulate various biomolecules in many areas of biological, physical, and chemical research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1


  • Carbon nanotube
  • Laser-induced heating
  • Myosin
  • Thermal conductivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Local heating of molecular motors using single carbon nanotubes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this