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Nat Cell Biol. 2001 Apr;3(4):425-8.

Substeps within the 8-nm step of the ATPase cycle of single kinesin molecules.

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  • 1Department of Biophysical Engineering, Osaka University 1-3, Machikaneyama, Toyonaka, Osaka 560-8531, Japan.


Kinesin is a molecular motor that moves processively by regular 8-nm steps along microtubules. The processivity of this movement is explained by a hand-over-hand model in which the two heads of kinesin work in a coordinated manner. One head remains bound to the microtubule while the other steps from the alphabeta-tubulin dimer behind the attached head to the dimer in front. The overall movement is 8 nm per ATPase cycle. To investigate elementary processes within the 8-nm step, we have developed a new assay that resolves nanometre displacements of single kinesin molecules with microsecond accuracy. Our data show that the 8-nm step can be resolved into fast and slow substeps, each corresponding to a displacement of approximately 4 nm. The substeps are most probably generated by structural changes in one head of kinesin, leading to rectified forward thermal motions of the partner head. It is also possible that the kinesin steps along the 4-nm repeat of tubulin monomers.

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