A common mitotic defect observed in cancer cells that possess supernumerary (more than two) centrosomes is multipolar spindle formation [1, 2]. Such structures are resolved into a bipolar geometry by minus-end-directed motor proteins, such as cytoplasmic dynein and the kinesin-14 HSET [3-8]. HSET is also thought to antagonize plus-end-directed kinesin-5 Eg5 to balance spindle forces [4, 5, 7, 9]. However, the biomechanics of this force opposition are unclear, as HSET has previously been defined as a non-processive motor [10-16]. Here, we use optical trapping to elucidate the mechanism of force generation by HSET. We show that a single HSET motor has a processive nature with the ability to complete multiple steps while trapped along a microtubule and when unloaded can move in both directions for microns. Compared to other kinesins, HSET has a relatively weak stall force of 1.1 pN [17, 18]. Moreover, HSET's tail domain and its interaction with the E-hook of tubulin are necessary for long-range motility. In vitro polarity-marked bundle assays revealed that HSET selectively generates force in anti-parallel bundles on the order of its stall force. When combined with varied ratios of Eg5, HSET adopts Eg5's directionality while acting as an antagonizing force brake, requiring at least a 10-fold higher Eg5 concentration to surpass HSET's sliding force. These results reveal HSET's ability to change roles within the spindle from acting as an adjustable microtubule slider and force regulator to a processive motor that aids in minus end focusing.
Keywords: Eg5; HSET; kinesin-14; mitotic spindle; optical trap; processivity; single molecule.
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