Isolation and analysis of microtubule motor proteins

Methods Cell Biol. 1994;44:279-88. doi: 10.1016/s0091-679x(08)60919-x.


Isolation of microtubule motor proteins is needed both for the discovery of new motors and for characterization of the products of motor-related genes. The sequences of motor-related genes cannot yet be used to predict the mechanochemical properties of the gene products. This was illustrated by the first kinesin-related gene product to be characterized. Protein expressed from the ncd gene moved toward the minus ends of microtubules (Walker et al., 1990; McDonald et al., 1990), while kinesin itself moves toward the plus ends. Until the relationship between mechanochemical function and amino acid sequence is more thoroughly understood, biochemical isolation and characterization of microtubule motor proteins will remain essential. Two approaches for getting useful quantities of microtubule motor proteins have been used: isolation from cytosol as described under Section II above and isolation from bacteria carrying cloned motor protein genes in expression vectors. Bacterial expression of functional microtubule motors has been successful to date in only a few cases (Yang et al., 1990; Walker et al., 1990, McDonald et al., 1990). Additional progress is expected with the expression of cloned genes from viral vectors in cultured eukaryotic cells, but broad success has not yet been reported. Biochemical isolation of motors from their natural cytosol has some distinct advantages. One can have confidence that a given motor will be folded properly and have normal post-translational modifications. In addition, if it exists in vivo as a heteromultimer, a microtubule motor isolated from its native cytosol will carry with it a normal complement of associated proteins. Studies of such associated proteins will be important in learning how motors accomplish their tasks in vivo. Drosophila cytosol should be a rich source of microtubule motors. Drosophila carry at least 11 and perhaps as many as 30 genes that are related to kinesin (Stewart et al., 1991; Endow and Hatsumi, 1991). The work of Tom Hays' lab indicates that Drosophila carry more than nine dynein related genes (Rasmussen et al., 1994). Relatively little effort to isolate the products of these genes from cytosol has been made. The only work that I am aware of has produced a kinesin-like microtubule motor (D.G. Cole, K.B. Sheehan, W.M. Saxton, and J.M. Scholey, in progress) that may be the Drosophila homolog of Xenopus eg5 (Sawin et al., 1992). This isolation was straightforward, and efforts to identify additional motors are almost assured of success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Fractionation
  • Drosophila melanogaster / chemistry*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / chemistry
  • Male
  • Microtubule Proteins / analysis
  • Microtubule Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Microtubules / chemistry
  • Sea Urchins
  • Sperm Motility / physiology


  • Microtubule Proteins