Spudich, biochemistry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Stanford physics graduate student David M. Altman report in the March 5 issue of Cell how a type of molecular motor provides the rigidity needed by the tiny sensors in the inner ear in order to respond to sound. They found that this motor creates the proper amount of tension in the sensors and anchors itself to maintain that tension.
"Our general feeling is that tension-sensitive machines are at the heart of the dynamic city plan," said Spudich. Their National Institutes of Health-funded study has implications far beyond how an obscure molecule provides rigidity for a protein in the inner ear. A motor able to create structural changes by taking up slack in proteins and clamping down so that they remain in a rigid position may help explain many intricacies of cellular organization, such as how chromosomes line up and separate during cell division.
"Studies like this allow you to understand enough details of these motors to design small molecules to affect their function," said Spudich, who is also the Douglass M. and Nola Leishman Professor of Cardiovascular Disease. Toward this end he has co-founded a company, Cytokinetics, in hopes of creating drugs that selectively target molecular motors involved in cancer and cardiovascular disease.
For years, Spudich's lab has studied molecular motors called myosins, proteins that carry out cellular motion by attaching to and "walking" along fibers of actin. The interaction of actin and myosin is the m
Contact: Mitzi Baker
Stanford University Medical Center