Chromatin maintenance by a molecular motor protein

Nucleus. Nov-Dec 2011;2(6):591-600. doi: 10.4161/nucl.2.6.18044. Epub 2011 Nov 1.


The kinesin motor protein KIF4 performs essential functions in mitosis. Like other mitotic kinesins, loss of KIF4 causes spindle defects, aneuploidy, genomic instability and ultimately tumor formation. However, KIF4 is unique among molecular motors in that it resides in the cell nucleus throughout interphase, suggesting a non-mitotic function as well. Here we identify a novel cellular function for a molecular motor protein by demonstrating that KIF4 acts as a modulator of large-scale chromatin architecture during interphase. KIF4 binds globally to chromatin and its absence leads to chromatin decondensation and loss of heterochromatin domains. KIF4-dependent chromatin decondensation has functional consequences by causing replication defects and global mis-regulation of gene expression programs. KIF4 exerts its function in chromatin architecture via regulation of ADP-ribosylation of core and linker histones and by physical interaction and recruitment of chromatin assembly proteins during S-phase. These observations document a novel function for a molecular motor protein in establishment and maintenance of higher order chromatin structure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interphase / physiology*
  • Kinesin / genetics
  • Kinesin / metabolism*
  • Mitosis / physiology*
  • S Phase / physiology*


  • Heterochromatin
  • Kinesin