Detection of sub-8-nm movements of kinesin by high-resolution optical-trap microscopy. Academic Article uri icon


  • Kinesin is a molecular motor that transports organelles along microtubules. This enzyme has two identical 7-nm-long motor domains, which it uses to move between consecutive tubulin binding sites spaced 8 nm apart along a microtubular protofilament. The molecular mechanism of this movement, which remains to be elucidated, may be common to all families of motor proteins. In this study, a high-resolution optical-trap microscope was used to measure directly the magnitude of abrupt displacements produced by a single kinesin molecule transporting a microscopic bead. The distribution of magnitudes reveals that kinesin not only undergoes discrete 8-nm movements, in agreement with previous work [Svoboda, K., Schmidt, C. F., Schnapp, B. J. & Block, S.M. (1993) Nature (London) 365, 721-727], but also frequently exhibits smaller movements of about 5 nm. A possible explanation for these unexpected smaller movements is that kinesin's movement from one dimer to the next along a protofilament involves at least two distinct events in the mechanical cycle.

publication date

  • March 5, 1996