Kinesin and dynein-dynactin at intersecting microtubules: motor density affects dynein function

Biophys J. 2008 Apr 15;94(8):3115-25. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.107.120014. Epub 2008 Jan 28.


Kinesin and cytoplasmic dynein are microtubule-based motor proteins that actively transport material throughout the cell. Microtubules can intersect at a variety of angles both near the nucleus and at the cell periphery, and the behavior of molecular motors at these intersections has implications for long-range transport efficiency and accuracy. To test motor function at microtubule intersections, crossovers were arranged in vitro using flow to orient successive layers of filaments. Single kinesin and cytoplasmic dynein-dynactin molecules fused with green-fluorescent protein, and artificial bead cargos decorated with multiple motors, were observed while they encountered intersections. Single kinesins tend to cross intersecting microtubules, whereas single dynein-dynactins have a more varied response. For bead cargos, kinesin motion is independent of motor number. Dynein beads with high motor numbers pause, but their actions become more varied as the motor number decreases. These results suggest that regulating the number of active dynein molecules could change a motile cargo into one that is anchored at an intersection, consistent with dynein's proposed transport and tethering functions in the cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Dyneins / chemistry*
  • Dyneins / ultrastructure
  • Kinesins / chemistry*
  • Kinesins / ultrastructure
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / chemistry*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Microtubules / chemistry*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / chemistry*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Motion
  • Protein Binding


  • Dynactin Complex
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Dyneins
  • Kinesins