Molecular motors: structural adaptations to cellular functions

Nature. 1997 Oct 9;389(6651):561-7. doi: 10.1038/39247.


Molecular motors are protein machines whose directed movement along cytoskeletal filaments is driven by ATP hydrolysis. Eukaryotic cells contain motors that help to transport organelles to their correct cellular locations and to establish and alter cellular morphology during cell locomotion and division. The best-studied motors, myosin from skeletal muscle and conventional kinesin from brain, are remarkably similar in structure, yet have very different functions. These differences can be understood in terms of the 'duty ratio', the fraction of the time that a motor is attached to its filament. Differences in duty ratio can explain the diversity of structures, speeds and oligomerization states of members of the large kinesin, myosin and dynein families of motors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Dyneins / chemistry
  • Dyneins / physiology
  • Kinesin / chemistry
  • Kinesin / physiology*
  • Microtubules / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Myosins / chemistry
  • Myosins / physiology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Time Factors


  • Myosins
  • Dyneins
  • Kinesin