The correct localization of Hedgehog effectors to the tip of primary cilia is critical for proper signal transduction. The conserved non-motile kinesin Kif7 defines a "cilium-tip compartment" by localizing to the distal ends of axonemal microtubules. How Kif7 recognizes microtubule ends remains unknown. We find that Kif7 preferentially binds GTP-tubulin at microtubule ends over GDP-tubulin in the mature microtubule lattice, and ATP hydrolysis by Kif7 enhances this discrimination. Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structures suggest that a rotated microtubule footprint and conformational changes in the ATP-binding pocket underlie Kif7's atypical microtubule-binding properties. Finally, Kif7 not only recognizes but also stabilizes a GTP-form of tubulin to promote its own microtubule-end localization. Thus, unlike the characteristic microtubule-regulated ATPase activity of kinesins, Kif7 modulates the tubulin mechanochemical cycle. We propose that the ubiquitous kinesin fold has been repurposed in Kif7 to facilitate organization of a spatially restricted platform for localization of Hedgehog effectors at the cilium tip.
Keywords: Hedgehog; Kif7; cilia; cilium tip; cryo-EM; kinesin; mechanochemistry; microtubule; tip-tracking; tubulin.
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