Mammalian Kinesin-3 motors are dimeric in vivo and move by processive motility upon release of autoinhibition

PLoS Biol. 2009 Mar 31;7(3):e72. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000072.


Kinesin-3 motors drive the transport of synaptic vesicles and other membrane-bound organelles in neuronal cells. In the absence of cargo, kinesin motors are kept inactive to prevent motility and ATP hydrolysis. Current models state that the Kinesin-3 motor KIF1A is monomeric in the inactive state and that activation results from concentration-driven dimerization on the cargo membrane. To test this model, we have examined the activity and dimerization state of KIF1A. Unexpectedly, we found that both native and expressed proteins are dimeric in the inactive state. Thus, KIF1A motors are not activated by cargo-induced dimerization. Rather, we show that KIF1A motors are autoinhibited by two distinct inhibitory mechanisms, suggesting a simple model for activation of dimeric KIF1A motors by cargo binding. Successive truncations result in monomeric and dimeric motors that can undergo one-dimensional diffusion along the microtubule lattice. However, only dimeric motors undergo ATP-dependent processive motility. Thus, KIF1A may be uniquely suited to use both diffuse and processive motility to drive long-distance transport in neuronal cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dimerization
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Kinesin / genetics
  • Kinesin / metabolism*
  • Kinesin / physiology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Rats


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Kif1a protein, rat
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • yellow fluorescent protein, Bacteria
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Kinesin