Kinesin-1 motor proteins walk parallel to the protofilament axes of microtubules as they step from one tubulin dimer to the next. Is protofilament tracking an inherent property of processive kinesin motors, like kinesin-1, and what are the structural determinants underlying protofilament tracking? To address these questions, we investigated the tracking properties of the processive kinesin-8, Kip3. Using in vitro gliding motility assays, we found that Kip3 rotates microtubules counterclockwise around their longitudinal axes with periodicities of ∼1 μm. These rotations indicate that the motors switch protofilaments with a bias toward the left. Molecular modeling suggests 1), that the protofilament switching may be due to kinesin-8 having a longer neck linker than kinesin-1, and 2), that the leftward bias is due the asymmetric geometry of the motor neck linker complex.
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