Recent studies demonstrate co-localization of kinesin with neurofilament (NF) subunits in culture and suggest that kinesin participates in NF subunit distribution. We sought to determine whether kinesin was also associated with NF subunits in situ. Axonal transport of NF subunits in mouse optic nerve was perturbed by the microtubule (MT)-depolymerizing drug vinblastine, indicating that NF transport was dependent upon MT dynamics. Kinesin co-precipitated during immunoprecipitation of NF subunits from optic nerve. The association of NFs and kinesin was regulated by NF phosphorylation, since (1) NF subunits bearing developmentally delayed phospho-epitopes did not co-purify in a microtubule motor preparation from CNS while less phosphorylated forms did; (2) subunits bearing these phospho-epitopes were selectively not co-precipitated with kinesin; and (3) phosphorylation under cell-free conditions diminished the association of NF subunits with kinesin. The nature and extent of this association was further examined by intravitreal injection of (35)S-methionine and monitoring NF subunit transport along optic axons. As previously described by several laboratories, the wave of NF subunits underwent a progressive broadening during continued transport. The front, but not the trail, of this broadening wave of NF subunits was co-precipitated with kinesin, indicating that (1) the fastest-moving NFs were associated with kinesin, and (2) that dissociation from kinesin may foster trailing of NF subunits during continued transport. These data suggest that kinesin participates in NF axonal transport either by directly translocating NFs and/or by linking NFs to transporting MTs. Both Triton-soluble as well as cytoskeleton-associated NF subunits were co-precipitated with kinesin; these data are considered in terms of the form(s) in which NF subunits undergo axonal transport.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.