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This article is part of the supplement: Eighteenth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2009

Open Access Poster presentation

Directed intermittent search model of microtubule cargo transport

Jay M Newby* and Paul C Bressloff

Author Affiliations

Department of Mathematics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10(Suppl 1):P24  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-S1-P24

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:13 July 2009

© 2009 Newby and Bressloff; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Microtubule motor driven transport has been implicated in many critical processes in neurons. Examples include mRNA transport in dendrites and mitochondria transport in axons. We present a model of microtubule cargo transport that builds upon previous models by accounting for delivery of the cargo to the correct target. Using random search theory [1], we derive equations for the probability that a motor driven cargo moving along a one-dimensional track will find its target. We also derive equations for the average time to find the target, called the mean first passage time or mfpt. We then utilize a model reduction to approximate the governing system of hyperbolic master equations to a standard Fokker-Plank equation. The accuracy of our reduction can be verified by comparison to Monte-Carlo simulations. Using this reduction, we can consider a detailed biophysical model of bidirectional motor transport, known at the tug-of-war model, within the random search model. We conclude by proposing a model for ATP dependent transitions between search-oriented behavior and directed-transport-oriented behavior.


  1. Bressloff PC, Newby J: Directed intermittent search for hidden targets.

    New J Phys, in press. OpenURL