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J Electron Microsc (Tokyo). 2011;60 Suppl 1:S63-92. doi: 10.1093/jmicro/dfr051.

From electron microscopy to molecular cell biology, molecular genetics and structural biology: intracellular transport and kinesin superfamily proteins, KIFs: genes, structure, dynamics and functions.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Hongo, 7-3-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 113-0033.


Cells transport and sort various proteins and lipids following synthesis as distinct types of membranous organelles and protein complexes to the correct destination at appropriate velocities. This intracellular transport is fundamental for cell morphogenesis, survival and functioning not only in highly polarized neurons but also in all types of cells in general. By developing quick-freeze electron microscopy (EM), new filamentous structures associated with cytoskeletons are uncovered. The characterization of chemical structures and functions of these new filamentous structures led us to discover kinesin superfamily molecular motors, KIFs. In this review, I discuss the identification of these new structures and characterization of their functions using molecular cell biology and molecular genetics. KIFs not only play significant roles by transporting various cargoes along microtubule rails, but also play unexpected fundamental roles on various important physiological processes such as learning and memory, brain wiring, development of central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, activity-dependent neuronal survival, development of early embryo, left-right determination of our body and tumourigenesis. Furthermore, by combining single-molecule biophysics with structural biology such as cryo-electrom microscopy and X-ray crystallography, atomic structures of KIF1A motor protein of almost all states during ATP hydrolysis have been determined and a common mechanism of motility has been proposed. Thus, this type of studies could be a good example of really integrative multidisciplinary life science in the twenty-first century.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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