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Biophys J. 2009 Feb;96(3):1142-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2008.10.023.

Pressure-induced changes in the structure and function of the kinesin-microtubule complex.

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Department of Chemistry, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan.


Kinesin-1 is an ATP-driven molecular motor that "walks" along a microtubule by working two heads in a "hand-over-hand" fashion. The stepping motion is well-coordinated by intermolecular interactions between the kinesin head and microtubule, and is sensitively changed by applied forces. We demonstrate that hydrostatic pressure works as an inhibitory action on kinesin motility. We developed a high-pressure microscope that enables the application of hydrostatic pressures of up to 200 MPa (2000 bar). Under high-pressure conditions, taxol-stabilized microtubules were shortened from both ends at the same speed. The sliding velocity of kinesin motors was reversibly changed by pressure, and reached half-maximal value at approximately 100 MPa. The pressure-velocity relationship was very close to the force-velocity relationship of single kinesin molecules, suggesting a similar inhibitory mechanism on kinesin motility. Further analysis showed that the pressure mainly affects the stepping motion, but not the ATP binding reaction. The application of pressure is thought to enhance the structural fluctuation and/or association of water molecules with the exposed regions of the kinesin head and microtubule. These pressure-induced effects could prevent kinesin motors from completing the stepping motion.

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