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J Neurosci. 1999 Feb 1;19(3):1027-37.

The kinesin motor KIF3A is a component of the presynaptic ribbon in vertebrate photoreceptors.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Kinesin motors are presumed to transport various membrane compartments within neurons, but their specific in vivo functions, cargoes, and expression patterns in the brain are unclear. We have investigated the distribution of KIF3A, a member of the heteromeric family of kinesins, in the vertebrate retina. We find KIF3A at two distinct sites within photoreceptors: at the basal body of the connecting cilium axoneme and at the synaptic ribbon. Immunoelectron microscopy of the photoreceptor ribbon synapse shows KIF3A to be concentrated both at the ribbon matrix and on vesicles docked at the ribbon, a result that is consistent with the presence of both detergent-extractable and resistant KIF3A fractions at these synapses. KIF3A is also present in the inner plexiform layer, again at presynaptic ribbons. These findings suggest that within a single cell, the photoreceptor, one kinesin polypeptide, KIF3A, can serve two distinct functions, one specific for ribbon synapses.

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