Cell Biology

It Takes Teamwork

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Science  01 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6123, pp. 1012
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6123.1012-c

Cells contain molecular motors, including dynein and kinesin, that move a variety of cargoes along microtubules. Dyneins are often used by cells to generate large forces during, for example, nuclear migration, mitotic spindle orientation, and reorientation of the cytoskeleton during wound healing. Individual motors, however, are limited in the amount of force they can generate on their own. How are large forces generated and sustained inside cells? Rai et al. developed methods to use optical tweezers for precise, quantitative force measurement inside cells. The results show, paradoxically, that dyneins, which are weak and erratic at the single-motor level, show excellent teamwork to generate large and persistent forces inside cells. Kinesins, on the other hand, which are strong and persistent at a single-motor level, fail to generate force collectively. The forces upon moving phagosomes loaded with latex beads increased linearly with dynein number. Hendricks et al. also found that transport of phagosomes was driven by multiple dynein motors. Thus a force of certain magnitude can be generated simply by changing the number of dynein motors depending on the specific requirement in the cell.

Cell 152, 172 (2013); Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 18447 (2012).

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