The Kinesin KIF21B Regulates Microtubule Dynamics and Is Essential for Neuronal Morphology, Synapse Function, and Learning and Memory

Cell Rep. 2016 May 3;15(5):968-977. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.03.086. Epub 2016 Apr 21.


The kinesin KIF21B is implicated in several human neurological disorders, including delayed cognitive development, yet it remains unclear how KIF21B dysfunction may contribute to pathology. One limitation is that relatively little is known about KIF21B-mediated physiological functions. Here, we generated Kif21b knockout mice and used cellular assays to investigate the relevance of KIF21B in neuronal and in vivo function. We show that KIF21B is a processive motor protein and identify an additional role for KIF21B in regulating microtubule dynamics. In neurons lacking KIF21B, microtubules grow more slowly and persistently, leading to tighter packing in dendrites. KIF21B-deficient neurons exhibit decreased dendritic arbor complexity and reduced spine density, which correlate with deficits in synaptic transmission. Consistent with these observations, Kif21b-null mice exhibit behavioral changes involving learning and memory deficits. Our study provides insight into the cellular function of KIF21B and the basis for cognitive decline resulting from KIF21B dysregulation.

Keywords: KIF21B; LTP; dendrite; kinesin; learning and memory; microtubule dynamics; neuron; spine; synapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Shape*
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Gene Targeting
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Kinesins / deficiency
  • Kinesins / metabolism*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Memory Disorders / pathology
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Kif21b protein, mouse
  • Kinesins