Templating a Molecular Tug-of-War

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Science  02 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6107, pp. 626-627
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230818

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The activated transport of organelles, vesicles, and many other subcellular commodities along cytoskeletal filaments is central to mechanisms that regulate the internal organization of eukaryotic cells (1). The motions of these cargos are driven by several classes of ATP–dependent enzymes called motor proteins that are capable of converting chemical energy into mechanical work. A variety of bulk biochemical and single-molecule techniques have been developed over the past decade to characterize the principles that allow these enzymes to function effectively as molecular machines (2, 3). Yet most cargos are transported by multicomponent motor systems containing multiple copies of the same motor, or even by mixtures of different classes of motors that move with different velocities, in opposite directions, and along different types of cytoskeletal filaments (4, 5). Understanding how motors cooperate productively and compete antagonistically has therefore become increasingly important for dissecting mechanisms that regulate intracellular transport as well as the impact of motor mutations in diseases. On page 662 of this issue, Derr et al. (6) demonstrate a new materials approach to these problems that allows the characterization of key relationships among the structural organization of multiple motor systems, the properties of motors within these complexes, and their collective dynamic behaviors.