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Molecular motors cooperate in moving cellular cargo, study shows

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Researchers using an extremely fast and accurate imaging technique have shed light on the tiny movements of molecular motors that shuttle material within living cells. The motors cooperate in a delicate choreography of steps, rather than engaging in the brute-force tug of war many scientists had imagined.

"We discovered that two molecular motors -- dynein and kinesin -- do not compete for control, even though they want to move the same cargo in opposite directions," said Paul Selvin, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and corresponding author of a paper to appear in the journal Science, as part of the Science Express Web site, on April 7. "We also found that multiple motors can work in concert, producing more than 10 times the speed of individual motors measured outside the cell."

Dynein and kinesin are biomolecular motors that haul cargo from one part of a cell to another. Dynein moves material from the cell membrane to the nucleus; kinesin moves material from the cell nucleus to the cell membrane. The little cargo transporters accomplish their task by stepping along filaments called microtubules.

To measure such minuscule motion, Selvin and colleagues at Illinois developed a technique called Fluorescence Imaging with One Nanometer Accuracy. The technique can locate a fluorescent dye to within 1.5 nanometers (one nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair). Recent improvements to FIONA now allow scientists to detect motion with millisecond time resolution.

Selvin's team used FIONA to track fluorescently labeled peroxisomes (organelles that break down toxic substances) inside specially cultured fruit fly cells. This was the first time the imaging technique had been used inside a living cell.

"Our measurements show that both dynein and kinesin carry the peroxisomes in a step-by-step fashion, moving about 8 nanometers
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Contact: James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
kloeppel@uiuc.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
7-Apr-2005


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