During cell division, the mitotic kinesin-5 Eg5 generates most of the force required to separate centrosomes during spindle assembly. However, Kif15, another mitotic kinesin, can replace Eg5 function, permitting mammalian cells to acquire resistance to Eg5 poisons. Unlike Eg5, the mechanism by which Kif15 generates centrosome separation forces is unknown. Here we investigated the mechanical properties and force generation capacity of Kif15 at the single-molecule level using optical tweezers. We found that the non-motor microtubule-binding tail domain interacts with the microtubule's E-hook tail with a rupture force higher than the stall force of the motor. This allows Kif15 dimers to productively and efficiently generate forces that could potentially slide microtubules apart. Using an in vitro optical trapping and fluorescence assay, we found that Kif15 slides anti-parallel microtubules apart with gradual force buildup while parallel microtubule bundles remain stationary with a small amount of antagonizing force generated. A stochastic simulation shows the essential role of Kif15's tail domain for load storage within the Kif15-microtubule system. These results suggest a mechanism for how Kif15 rescues bipolar spindle assembly.
Keywords: Eg5; Kif15; kinesin; kinesin-12; mitosis; mitotic motor; optical trap; single molecule; spindle assembly.
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