Single cytoplasmic dynein molecule movements: characterization and comparison with kinesin

Biophys J. 1995 Nov;69(5):2011-23. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(95)80071-8.


Cytoplasmic dynein is a major microtubule motor for minus-end directed movements including retrograde axonal transport. To better understand the mechanism by which cytoplasmic dynein converts ATP energy into motility, we have analyzed the nanometer-level displacements of latex beads coated with low numbers of cytoplasmic dynein molecules. Cytoplasmic dynein-coated beads exhibited greater lateral movements among microtubule protofilaments (ave. 5.1 times/microns of displacement) compared with kinesin (ave. 0.9 times/micron). In addition, dynein moved rearward up to 100 nm over several hundred milliseconds, often in correlation with off-axis movements from one protofilament to another. We suggest that single molecules of cytoplasmic dynein move the beads because 1) there is a linear dependence of bead motility on dynein/bead ratio, 2) the binding of beads to microtubules studied by laser tweezers is best fit by a first-order Poisson, and 3) the run length histogram of dynein beads follows a first-order decay. At the cellular level, the greater disorder of cytoplasmic dynein movements may facilitate transport by decreasing the duration of collisions between kinesin and cytoplasmic dynein-powered vesicles.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport / physiology
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry*
  • Cytoplasm / physiology*
  • Dyneins / chemistry*
  • Dyneins / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinesin / chemistry*
  • Kinesin / physiology*
  • Latex
  • Microspheres
  • Movement / physiology


  • Latex
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Dyneins
  • Kinesin