Physiological Reviews

Intracellular Transport and Kinesin Superfamily Proteins, KIFs: Structure, Function, and Dynamics

Nobutaka Hirokawa, Yasuko Noda


Various molecular cell biology and molecular genetic approaches have indicated significant roles for kinesin superfamily proteins (KIFs) in intracellular transport and have shown that they are critical for cellular morphogenesis, functioning, and survival. KIFs not only transport various membrane organelles, protein complexes, and mRNAs for the maintenance of basic cellular activity, but also play significant roles for various mechanisms fundamental for life, such as brain wiring, higher brain functions such as memory and learning and activity-dependent neuronal survival during brain development, and for the determination of important developmental processes such as left-right asymmetry formation and suppression of tumorigenesis. Accumulating data have revealed a molecular mechanism of cargo recognition involving scaffolding or adaptor protein complexes. Intramolecular folding and phosphorylation also regulate the binding activity of motor proteins. New techniques using molecular biophysics, cryoelectron microscopy, and X-ray crystallography have detected structural changes in motor proteins, synchronized with ATP hydrolysis cycles, leading to the development of independent models of monomer and dimer motors for processive movement along microtubules.

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