Bidirectional transport is a key issue in cellular biology. It requires coordination between microtubule-associated molecular motors that work in opposing directions. The major retrograde and anterograde motors involved in bidirectional transport are cytoplasmic dynein and conventional kinesin, respectively. It is clear that failures in molecular motor activity bear severe consequences, especially in the nervous system. Neuronal migration may be impaired during brain development, and impaired molecular motor activity in the adult is one of the hallmarks of neurodegenerative diseases leading to neuronal cell death. The mechanisms that regulate or coordinate kinesin and dynein activity to generate bidirectional transport of the same cargo are of utmost importance. We examined how Ndel1, a cytoplasmic dynein binding protein, may regulate non-vesicular bidirectional transport. Soluble Ndel1 protein, Ndel1-derived peptides or control proteins were mixed with fluorescent beads, injected into the squid giant axon, and the bead movements were recorded using time-lapse microscopy. Automated tracking allowed for extraction and unbiased analysis of a large data set. Beads moved in both directions with a clear bias to the anterograde direction. Velocities were distributed over a broad range and were typically slower than those associated with fast vesicle transport. Ironically, the main effect of Ndel1 and its derived peptides was an enhancement of anterograde motion. We propose that they may function primarily by inhibition of dynein-dependent resistance, which suggests that both dynein and kinesin motors may remain engaged with microtubules during bidirectional transport.
Keywords: Anterograde transport; Cytoplasmic dynein; Kinesin; Microtubules; Retrograde transport.