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Protein Sci. 2015 Jul;24(7):1047-56. doi: 10.1002/pro.2697. Epub 2015 Jun 11.

Kinesin, 30 years later: Recent insights from structural studies.

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Institute of Protein Research, Tongji University, Shanghai, China.
Institut de Biologie Intégrative de la Cellule (I2BC), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif sur Yvette, France.


Motile kinesins are motor proteins that move unidirectionally along microtubules as they hydrolyze ATP. They share a conserved motor domain (head) which harbors both the ATP- and microtubule-binding activities. The kinesin that has been studied most moves toward the microtubule (+)-end by alternately advancing its two heads along a single protofilament. This kinesin is the subject of this review. Its movement is associated to alternate conformations of a peptide, the neck linker, at the C-terminal end of the motor domain. Recent progress in the understanding of its structural mechanism has been made possible by high-resolution studies, by cryo electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, of complexes of the motor domain with its track protein, tubulin. These studies clarified the structural changes that occur as ATP binds to a nucleotide-free microtubule-bound kinesin, initiating each mechanical step. As ATP binds to a head, it triggers orientation changes in three rigid motor subdomains, leading the neck linker to dock onto the motor core, which directs the other head toward the microtubule (+)-end. The relationship between neck linker docking and the orientations of the motor subdomains also accounts for kinesin's processivity, which is remarkable as this motor protein only falls off from a microtubule after taking about a hundred steps. As tools are now available to determine high-resolution structures of motor domains complexed to their track protein, it should become possible to extend these studies to other kinesins and relate their sequence variations to their diverse properties.


mechanism; microtubules; motor protein; myosin; processivity; structure

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