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Proteins. 2012 Oct;80(10):2437-46. doi: 10.1002/prot.24128. Epub 2012 Jul 7.

Kinesin tail domains are intrinsically disordered.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Kinesin motor proteins transport a wide variety of molecular cargoes in a spatially and temporally regulated manner. Kinesin motor domains, which hydrolyze ATP to produce a directed mechanical force along a microtubule, are well conserved throughout the entire superfamily. Outside of the motor domains, kinesin sequences diverge along with their transport functions. The nonmotor regions, particularly the tails, respond to a wide variety of structural and molecular cues that enable kinesins to carry specific cargoes in response to particular cellular signals. Here, we demonstrate that intrinsic disorder is a common structural feature of kinesins. A bioinformatics survey of the full-length sequences of all 43 human kinesins predicts that significant regions of intrinsically disordered residues are present in all kinesins. These regions are concentrated in the nonmotor domains, particularly in the tails and near sites for ligand binding or post-translational modifications. In order to experimentally verify these predictions, we expressed and purified the tail domains of kinesins representing three different families (Kif5B, Kif10, and KifC3). Circular dichroism and NMR spectroscopy experiments demonstrate that the isolated tails are disordered in vitro, yet they retain their functional microtubule-binding activity. On the basis of these results, we propose that intrinsic disorder is a common structural feature that confers functional specificity to kinesins.

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