Microtubules are protein filaments that are emerging as potential building blocks in manufacturing nanoscale structures and systems such as interconnecting nanowires. Future development in using microtubules necessitates a control of their nucleation and growth. We report the controlled nucleation and growth of microtubules from functionalized gold on a hydrophilic oxidized silicon wafer. The gold substrate is functionalized with γ-tubulin, a natural nucleating agent for microtubule growth. We show that the attached γ-tubulin retains its biological functionality and leads to nucleation and assembly of microtubules from the functionalized gold surface. We also analyze the interplay between the geometry of the nucleating substrates and the morphology of microtubules arrays and networks grown from them. We consider two geometrical arrangements of the substrates: (a) a square lattice of small gold pads on a hydrophilic oxidized silicon wafer and (b) a large flat surface. Fluorescence microscopy and scanning electron microscopy are employed to provide a detailed characterization of the length and morphology of the nucleated and grown microtubules. The observed microtubule morphologies are modeled, analyzed and discussed within the context of reaction-diffusion and nucleation controlled processes.
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