Kinesin undergoes a global folding conformational change from an extended active conformation at high ionic concentrations to a compact inhibited conformation at physiological ionic concentrations. Here we show that much of the observed ATPase activity of folded kinesin is due to contamination with proteolysis fragments that can still fold, but retain an activated ATPase function. In contrast, kinesin that contains an intact IAK-homology region exhibits pronounced inhibition of its ATPase activity (140-fold in 50 mM KCl) and weak net affinity for microtubules in the presence of ATP, resulting from selective inhibition of the release of ADP upon initial interaction with a microtubule. Subsequent processive cycling is only partially inhibited. Fusion proteins containing residues 883-937 of the kinesin alpha-chain bind tightly to microtubules; exposure of this microtubule-binding site in proteolysed species is probably responsible for their activated ATPase activities at low microtubule concentrations.