skip to main content

Title: Cargo surface fluidity can reduce inter-motor mechanical interference, promote load-sharing and enhance processivity in teams of molecular motors
In cells, multiple molecular motors work together as teams to carry cargoes such as vesicles and organelles over long distances to their destinations by stepping along a network of cytoskeletal filaments. How motors that typically mechanically interfere with each other, work together as teams is unclear. Here we explored the possibility that purely physical mechanisms, such as cargo surface fluidity, may potentially enhance teamwork, both at the single motor and cargo level. To explore these mechanisms, we developed a three dimensional simulation of cargo transport along microtubules by teams of kinesin-1 motors. We accounted for cargo membrane fluidity by explicitly simulating the Brownian dynamics of motors on the cargo surface and considered both the load and ATP dependence of single motor functioning. Our simulations show that surface fluidity could lead to the reduction of negative mechanical interference between kinesins and enhanced load sharing thereby increasing the average duration of single motors on the filament. This, along with a cooperative increase in on-rates as more motors bind leads to enhanced collective processivity. At the cargo level, surface fluidity makes more motors available for binding, which can act synergistically with the above effects to further increase transport distances though this effect is significant only at low ATP or high motor density. Additionally, the fluid surface allows for the clustering of motors at a well defined location on the surface relative to the microtubule and the fluid-coupled motors can exert more collective force per motor against loads. Our work on understanding how teamwork arises in cargo-coupled motors allows us to connect single motor properties to overall transport, sheds new light on cellular processes, reconciles existing observations, encourages new experimental validation efforts and can also suggest new ways of improving the transport of artificial cargo powered by motor teams.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2112675 1547848
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Merks, Roeland M.H.
Date Published:
Journal Name:
PLOS Computational Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Kinesin motor proteins that drive intracellular transport share an overall architecture of two motor domain-containing subunits that dimerize through a coiled-coil stalk. Dimerization allows kinesins to be processive motors, taking many steps along the microtubule track before detaching. However, whether dimerization is required for intracellular transport remains unknown. Here, we address this issue using a combination of in vitro and cellular assays to directly compare dimeric motors across the kinesin-1, -2, and -3 families to their minimal monomeric forms. Surprisingly, we find that monomeric motors are able to work in teams to drive peroxisome dispersion in cells. However, peroxisome transport requires minimal force output, and we find that most monomeric motors are unable to disperse the Golgi complex, a high-load cargo. Strikingly, monomeric versions of the kinesin-2 family motors KIF3A and KIF3B are able to drive Golgi dispersion in cells, and teams of monomeric KIF3B motors can generate over 8 pN of force in an optical trap. We find that intracellular transport and force output by monomeric motors, but not dimeric motors, are significantly decreased by the addition of longer and more flexible motor-to-cargo linkers. Together, these results suggest that dimerization of kinesin motors is not required for intracellular transport; however, it enables motor-to-motor coordination and high force generation regardless of motor-to-cargo distance. Dimerization of kinesin motors is thus critical for cellular events that require an ability to generate or withstand high forces.

    more » « less
  2. The inside of a cell is a crowded space, full of proteins and other molecules. Yet, the molecular motors that transport some of those molecules within the cell move at the same speed as they would in pure water – about one micrometer per second. How the molecular motors could achieve such speeds in crowded cells was unclear. Nevertheless, Tjioe et al. suspected that the answer might be related to how multiple motors work together. Molecular motors move by walking along filaments inside the cell and pulling their cargo from one location to another. Other molecules that bind to the filaments should, in theory, act like “roadblocks” and impede the movement of the cargo. Tjioe et al. studied a motor protein called kinesin, which walks on filaments called microtubules. But instead of looking at these motors moving along microtubules inside a cell, Tjioe et al. used a simpler system where the cell was eliminated, and all parts were purified. Specifically, Tjioe et al. tethered purified motors to a piece of glass and then observed them under an extremely accurate microscope as they moved free-floating, fluorescently labelled microtubules. The microtubules, in this scenario, were acting like cargoes, where many kinesins could bind. Each kinesin motor also had a small chemical tag that could emit light. By following the movement of the lights, it was possible to calculate what each kinesin was doing and how the cargo moved. When more than one kinesin molecule was acting, the tension and speed of one kinesin affected the movement of the others. In any group of kinesins, about two-thirds of kinesin pulled the cargo, and unexpectedly, about one-third tended to resist and slow the cargo. These latter kinesins were moved along with the group without actually driving the cargo. These resisting kinesins did come off more rapidly than the driving kinesins, meaning the cargo should be able to quickly bypass roadblocks. This would help to keep the whole group travelling in the right direction at a steady pace. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Motor-based transport mechanisms are critical for a wide range of eukaryotic cell functions, including the transport of vesicle cargos over long distances. Our understanding of the factors that control and regulate motors when bound to a lipid substrate is however incomplete. We used microtubule gliding assays on a lipid bilayer substrate to investigate the role of membrane diffusion in kinesin-1 on/off binding kinetics and thereby transport velocity. Fluorescence imaging experiments demonstrate motor clustering on single microtubules due to membrane diffusion in the absence of ATP, followed by rapid ATP-induced dissociation during gliding. Our experimental data combined with analytical modeling show that the on/off binding kinetics of the motors are impacted by diffusion and, as a consequence, both the effective binding and unbinding rates for motors are much lower than the expected bare rates. Our results suggest that motor diffusion in the membrane can play a significant role in transport by impacting motor kinetics and can therefore function as a regulator of intracellular transport dynamics.

    more » « less
  4. The cell’s dense 3D actin filament network presents numerous challenges to vesicular transport by teams of myosin Va (MyoVa) molecular motors. These teams must navigate their cargo through diverse actin structures ranging from Arp2/3-branched lamellipodial networks to the dense, unbranched cortical networks. To define how actin filament network organization affects MyoVa cargo transport, we created two different 3D actin networks in vitro. One network was comprised of randomly oriented, unbranched actin filaments; the other was comprised of Arp2/3-branched actin filaments, which effectively polarized the network by aligning the actin filament plus-ends. Within both networks, we defined each actin filament’s 3D spatial position using superresolution stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) and its polarity by observing the movement of single fluorescent reporter MyoVa. We then characterized the 3D trajectories of fluorescent, 350-nm fluid-like liposomes transported by MyoVa teams (∼10 motors) moving within each of the two networks. Compared with the unbranched network, we observed more liposomes with directed and fewer with stationary motion on the Arp2/3-branched network. This suggests that the modes of liposome transport by MyoVa motors are influenced by changes in the local actin filament polarity alignment within the network. This mechanism was supported by an in silico 3D model that provides a broader platform to understand how cellular regulation of the actin cytoskeletal architecture may fine tune MyoVa-based intracellular cargo transport.

    more » « less
  5. Molecular motors, kinesin and myosin, are dimeric consisting of two linked identical monomeric globular proteins. Fueled by the free energy generated by ATP hydrolysis, they walk on polar tracks (microtubule or filamentous actin) processively, which means that only one head detaches and executes a mechanical step while the other stays bound to the track. One motor head must regulate the chemical state of the other, referred to as “gating”, a concept that is still not fully understood. Inspired by experiments, showing that only a fraction of the energy from ATP hydrolysis is used to advance the kinesin motors against load, we demonstrate that the rest of the energy is associated with chemical transitions in the two heads. The coordinated chemical transitions involve communication between the two heads - a feature that characterizes gating. We develop a general framework, based on information theory and stochastic thermodynamics, and establish that gating could be quantified in terms of information flow between the motor heads. Applications to kinesin-1 and Myosin V show that information flow, with positive cooperativity, at external resistive loads less than a critical value, F c . When force exceeds F c , effective information flow ceases. Interestingly, F c , which is independent of the input energy generated through ATP hydrolysis, coincides with the force at which the probability of backward steps starts to increase. Our findings suggest that transport efficiency is optimal only at forces less than F c , which implies that these motors must operate at low loads under in vivo conditions. 
    more » « less