Proteins that recognize and act on specific subsets of microtubules (MTs) enable the varied functions of the MT cytoskeleton. We recently discovered that Kif15 localizes exclusively to kinetochore fibers (K-fibers) or bundles of kinetochore-MTs within the mitotic spindle. It is currently speculated that the MT-associated protein TPX2 loads Kif15 onto spindle MTs, but this model has not been rigorously tested. Here, we show that Kif15 accumulates on MT bundles as a consequence of two inherent biochemical properties. First, Kif15 is self-repressed by its C terminus. Second, Kif15 harbors a nonmotor MT-binding site, enabling dimeric Kif15 to crosslink and slide MTs. Two-MT binding activates Kif15, resulting in its accumulation on and motility within MT bundles but not on individual MTs. We propose that Kif15 targets K-fibers via an intrinsic two-step mechanism involving molecular unfolding and two-MT binding. This work challenges the current model of Kif15 regulation and provides the first account of a kinesin that specifically recognizes a higher-order MT array.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.