One axon, many kinesins: What's the logic?

J Neurocytol. Nov-Dec 2000;29(11-12):799-818. doi: 10.1023/a:1010943424272.


A large number of membrane-bounded organelles, protein complexes, and mRNAs are transported along microtubules to different locations within the neuronal axon. Axonal transport in the anterograde direction is carried out by members of a superfamily of specialized motor proteins, the kinesins. All kinesins contain a conserved motor domain that hydrolyses ATP to generate movement along microtubules. Regions outside the motor domain are responsible for cargo binding and regulation of motor activity. Present in a soluble, inactive form in the cytoplasm, kinesins are activated upon cargo binding. Selective targeting of different types of kinesin motors to specific cargoes is directed by amino acid sequences situated in their variable tails. Cargo proteins with specific function at their destination, bind directly to specific kinesins for transport. Whereas most kinesins move to microtubule plus-ends, a small number of them move to microtubule minus-ends, and may participate in retrograde axonal transport. Axonal transport by kinesins has a logic: Fully assembled, multisubunit, functional complexes (e.g., ion channel complexes, signaling complexes, RNA-protein complexes) are transported to their destination by kinesin motors that interact transiently (i.e., during transport only) with one of the complexes' subunits.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport / physiology*
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Kinesin / classification
  • Kinesin / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Neurological
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism


  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Kinesin