Kinesin motors in cells "walk" along microtubules

from the step-by-step dept.
Researchers at Stanford University led by chemistry professor W. E. Moerner have gained further detail on how the kinesin molecular motor pulls objects along microtubule tracks inside cells. Their studies reveal that while one end of a kinesin molecule holds onto its cargo, the other end uses a remarkable two-headed structure to grab the microtubule and pull the cargo forward – a process called "kinesin walking" The work is described in the June 2001 issue of Nature Structural Biology.

As reported here on nanodot in June 2001, other research indicates kinesin systems may also harness the energy of random Brownian motions to move along microtubules.

Kinesin molecular motors are also employed in the microtubule molecular shuttles developed by a team led by Viola Vogel at the University of Washington (Seattle) Center for Nanotechnology. The shuttles are capable of moving cargo along engineered paths. Vogel and her co-workers have demonstrated methods of controlling the direction of motion of microtubules on engineered kinesin tracks, how to load cargo covalently to microtubules, and how to exploit ultraviolet light to turn the shuttles on and off sequentially. These are the first steps in the development of a tool kit to utilize molecular motors for the construction of nanoscale assembly lines. This work was described at the 2000 Foresight Conference in November 2000.

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