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J Cell Biol. 1991 Dec;115(6):1639-50.

Dynactin, a conserved, ubiquitously expressed component of an activator of vesicle motility mediated by cytoplasmic dynein.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.


Although cytoplasmic dynein is known to attach to microtubules and translocate toward their minus ends, dynein's ability to serve in vitro as a minus end-directed transporter of membranous organelles depends on additional soluble factors. We show here that a approximately 20S polypeptide complex (referred to as Activator I; Schroer, T. A., and M.P. Sheetz. 1991a. J. Cell Biol. 115:1309-1318.) stimulates dynein-mediated vesicle transport. A major component of the activator complex is a doublet of 150-kD polypeptides for which we propose the name dynactin (for dynein activator). The 20S dynactin complex is required for in vitro vesicle motility since depletion of it with a mAb to dynactin eliminates vesicle movement. Cloning of a brain specific isoform of dynactin from chicken reveals a 1,053 amino acid polypeptide composed of two coiled-coil alpha-helical domains interrupted by a spacer. Both this structural motif and the underlying primary sequence are highly conserved in vertebrates with 85% sequence identity within a central 1,000-residue domain of the chicken and rat proteins. As abundant as dynein, dynactin is ubiquitously expressed and appears to be encoded by a single gene that yields at least three alternative isoforms. The probable homologue in Drosophila is the gene Glued, whose protein product shares 50% sequence identity with vertebrate dynactin and whose function is essential for viability of most (and perhaps all) cells in the organism.

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