Kinesin proteins: a phylum of motors for microtubule-based motility

Bioessays. 1996 Mar;18(3):207-19. doi: 10.1002/bies.950180308.


The cellular processes of transport, division and, possibly, early development all involve microtubule-based motors. Recent work shows that, unexpectedly, many of these cellular functions are carried out by different types of kinesin and kinesin-related motor proteins. The kinesin proteins are a large and rapidly growing family of microtubule-motor proteins that share a 340-amino-acid motor domain. Phylogenetic analysis of the conserved motor domains groups the kinesin proteins into a number of subfamilies, the members of which exhibit a common molecular organization and related functions. The kinesin proteins that belong to different subfamilies differ in their rates and polarity of movement along microtubules, and probably in the particles/organelles that they transport. The kinesins arose early in eukaryotic evolution and gene duplication has allowed functional specialization to occur, resulting in a surprisingly large number of different classes of these proteins adapted for intracellular transport of vesicles and organelles, and for assembly and force generation in the meiotic and mitotic spindles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Humans
  • Kinesin / classification
  • Kinesin / genetics
  • Kinesin / physiology*
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology


  • Kinesin