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Cell. 2007 Nov 30;131(5):952-65.

Force-induced bidirectional stepping of cytoplasmic dynein.

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  • 1The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158-2200, USA.


Cytoplasmic dynein is a minus-end-directed microtubule motor whose mechanism of movement remains poorly understood. Here, we use optical tweezers to examine the force-dependent stepping behavior of yeast cytoplasmic dynein. We find that dynein primarily advances in 8 nm increments but takes other sized steps (4-24 nm) as well. An opposing force induces more frequent backward stepping by dynein, and the motor walks backward toward the microtubule plus end at loads above its stall force of 7 pN. Remarkably, in the absence of ATP, dynein steps processively along microtubules under an external load, with less force required for minus-end- than for plus-end-directed movement. This nucleotide-independent walking reveals that force alone can drive repetitive microtubule detachment-attachment cycles of dynein's motor domains. These results suggest a model for how dynein's two motor domains coordinate their activities during normal processive motility and provide new clues for understanding dynein-based motility in living cells.

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