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Nat Cell Biol. 1999 Sep;1(5):293-7.

Single-molecule analysis of kinesin motility reveals regulation by the cargo-binding tail domain.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


Conventional kinesin transports membranes along microtubules in vivo, but the majority of cellular kinesin is unattached to cargo. The motility of non-cargo-bound, soluble kinesin may be repressed by an interaction between the amino-terminal motor and carboxy-terminal cargo-binding tail domains, but neither bead nor microtubule-gliding assays have shown such inhibition. Here we use a single-molecule assay that measures the motility of kinesin unattached to a surface. We show that full-length kinesin binds microtubules and moves about ten times less frequently and exhibits discontinuous motion compared with a truncated kinesin lacking a tail. Mutation of either the stalk hinge or neck coiled-coil domain activates motility of full-length kinesin, indicating that these regions are important for tail-mediated repression. Our results suggest that the motility of soluble kinesin in the cell is inhibited and that the motor becomes activated by cargo binding.

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