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PLoS Biol. 2009 Oct;7(10):e1000216. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000216. Epub 2009 Oct 13.

Single molecule imaging reveals differences in microtubule track selection between Kinesin motors.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Cells generate diverse microtubule populations by polymerization of a common alpha/beta-tubulin building block. How microtubule associated proteins translate microtubule heterogeneity into specific cellular functions is not clear. We evaluated the ability of kinesin motors involved in vesicle transport to read microtubule heterogeneity by using single molecule imaging in live cells. We show that individual Kinesin-1 motors move preferentially on a subset of microtubules in COS cells, identified as the stable microtubules marked by post-translational modifications. In contrast, individual Kinesin-2 (KIF17) and Kinesin-3 (KIF1A) motors do not select subsets of microtubules. Surprisingly, KIF17 and KIF1A motors that overtake the plus ends of growing microtubules do not fall off but rather track with the growing tip. Selection of microtubule tracks restricts Kinesin-1 transport of VSVG vesicles to stable microtubules in COS cells whereas KIF17 transport of Kv1.5 vesicles is not restricted to specific microtubules in HL-1 myocytes. These results indicate that kinesin families can be distinguished by their ability to recognize microtubule heterogeneity. Furthermore, this property enables kinesin motors to segregate membrane trafficking events between stable and dynamic microtubule populations.

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