Regulation of Microtubule Dynamics by Molecular Motors

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Regulation of Microtubule Dynamics by Molecular Motors

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Title: Regulation of Microtubule Dynamics by Molecular Motors
Author: Su, Xiaolei
Citation: Su, Xiaolei. 2012. Regulation of Microtubule Dynamics by Molecular Motors. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Kinesin superfamily motors have a well-characterized ability to move along microtubules and transport cargo. However, some members of the kinesin superfamily can also remodel microtubule networks by controlling tubulin polymerization dynamics and by organizing microtubule structures. The kinesin-8 family of motors play a central role in cellular microtubule length control and in the regulation of spindle size. These motors move in a highly processive manner along the microtubule lattice towards plus ends. Once at the microtubule plus end, these motors have complex effects on polymerization dynamics: kinesin-8s can either destabilize or stabilize microtubules, depending upon the context. My thesis work identified a tethering mechanism that facilitates the processivity and plus end-binding activity of Kip3 (kinesin-8 in budding yeast), which is essential for the destabilizing activity of kinesin-8 in cells. A concentration-dependent model was proposed to explain the divergent effects of Kip3 on microtubule dynamics. Moreover, a novel activity of Kip3 in organizing microtubules was discovered: Kip3 can slide anti-parallel microtubules apart. The sliding activity of Kip3 counteracts the depolymerizing activity of Kip3 in controlling spindle length and stability. A lack of sliding activity causes fragile spindles during the process of chromosome segregation in anaphase. The tail domain of Kip3, which binds both microtubules and tubulin dimers, plays a critical role in all these activities. Together, my work defined multiple mechanisms by which Kip3 remodels the microtubule cytoskeleton. The physiological importance of these regulatory mechanisms will be discussed.
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