Background: A great deal of sub-cellular organelle positioning, and essentially all minus-ended organelle transport, depends on cytoplasmic dynein, but how dynein's function is regulated is not well understood. BicD is established to play a critical role in mediating dynein function-loss of BicD results in improperly localized nuclei, mRNA particles, and a dispersed Golgi apparatus-however exactly what BicD's role is remains unknown. Nonetheless, it is widely believed that BicD may act to tether dynein to cargos. Here we use a combination of biophysical and biochemical studies to investigate BicD's role in lipid droplet transport during Drosophila embryogenesis.
Methodology/principal findings: Functional loss of BicD impairs the embryo's ability to control the net direction of droplet transport; the developmentally controlled reversal in transport is eliminated. We find that minimal BicD expression (near-BicD(null)) decreases the average run length of both plus and minus end directed microtubule (MT) based transport. A point mutation affecting the BicD N-terminus has very similar effects on transport during cellularization (phase II), but in phase III (gastrulation) motion actually appears better than in the wild-type.
Conclusions/significance: In contrast to a simple static tethering model of BicD function, or a role only in initial dynein recruitment to the cargo, our data uncovers a new dynamic role for BicD in actively regulating transport. Lipid droplets move bi-directionally, and our investigations demonstrate that BicD plays a critical-and temporally changing-role in balancing the relative contributions of plus-end and minus-end motors to control the net direction of transport. Our results suggest that while BicD might contribute to recruitment of dynein to the cargo it is not absolutely required for such dynein localization, and it clearly contributes to regulation, helping activation/inactivation of the motors.