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J Biomech. 2010 Jan 5;43(1):31-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.09.006. Epub 2009 Oct 8.

The mechanochemistry of integrated motor protein complexes.

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Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, MS-142, Houston, TX77005 USA.


The assembly of molecular motor proteins into multi-unit protein complexes plays an important role in determining the intracellular transport and trafficking properties of many subcellular commodities. Yet, it is not known how proteins within these complexes interact and function collectively. Considering the established ties between motor transport and diseases, it has become increasingly important to investigate the functional properties of these essential transport 'motifs'. Doing so requires that the composite motile and force-generating properties of multi-unit motor assemblies are characterized. However, such analyses are typically confounded by a lack of understanding of the links between the structural and mechanical properties of many motor complexes. New experimental challenges also emerge when one examines motor cooperation. Distributions in the mechanical microstates available to motor ensembles must be examined in order to fully understand the transport behavior of multi-motor complexes. Furthermore, mechanisms by which motors communicate must be explored to determine whether motor groups can move cargo together in a truly cooperative fashion. Resolving these issues requires the development of experimental methods that allow the dynamics of complex systems of transport proteins to be monitored with the same precision available to single-molecule biophysical assays. Herein, we discuss key fundamental principles governing the function of motor complexes and their relation to mechanisms that regulate intracellular cargo transport. We also outline new experimental strategies to resolve these essential features of intracellular transport.

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